Every December, we decorate our house in traditional garb – a wreath on the front door and some garland around the mailbox. Simple, not over-the top. With small children, however, conservative decorations equates to no decorations at all. The children would much prefer a Griswold-esque display, including thousands of lights and giant inflatables.
In the past, I have been hesitant to give in to their demands. This year, however, I decided to compromise. I purchased a projector that uses lasers to cover the house in thousands of colored, chasing lights. The kids love it and the installation required almost no effort on my part and doesn’t litter my house with strings of light cables. Call it a win-win. But not unexpectedly, the addition of the projector opened the door to new demands – giant inflatables, music, laser light shows. After all, once you have broken the seal of tacky Christmas decorations, why not just go all the way?
As much as I really want to generate enough electricity through my lawn decorations to power a small village, the risk aversion developed through the practice of law is holding me back. It is not just the risk of fire from the overloaded power circuits that gives me pause. It is the neighbors, the HOA’s, or the city itself – the people who actually have to experience all the “joy” my lawn display has to offer. For example, consider Plantation, Florida residents Mark and Kathy Hyatt, who have been putting over 200,000 lights in their yard and on their house every year since 1990. They were sued by the City of Plantation back in 2014 for allegedly creating a public nuisance and safety hazard. (The Hyatts ultimately prevailed in the suit). Or, West Palm Beach resident Miriam Galan who was recently sued by some neighbors not too pleased with her light display complete with a dancing and singing Santa. As much as I want 10′ inflatable Santa, I just don’t know if I am willing to fight for it in a court of law.
Risk aversion aside, this time of year is meant to be fun and festive. Assuming decorations don’t violate any covenants and restrictions, why not just let the month of December be a time to let loose? Throw those lights up. Run up that power bill. Let’s have some fun. Admittedly, I, too, would’t be my happiest self when flashing lights and a singing Santa start interfering with my sleep. But, I can certainly cope for a month. And, I certainly wouldn’t make a holiday lawsuit out of it.