With another balmy weekend handed to us like a cold beer, my husband went out to string some colored lights on the trellis tower in the front yard. He went into the back yard to swaddle a small white pine with blue lights. Might as well get this done before it snows, right?


Eventually darkness fell and, to my surprise, the lights came on. "I thought you were just going to get them strung," I said. "Isn't it a little early to turn them on?"

"No," he said, confidently. "These are winter lights."

He explained that he wouldn't hang the strings of lights along the garage and porch eaves until after Thanksgiving. THOSE are Christmas lights. And they really are -- vintage strings of big old bulbs that call to mind Santa riding a Norelco razor. To illuminate the house with those would be wrong, he explained, pushing the Christmas season and clearly defying the natural order of holidays. As in the photo, above.

What he strung this weekend are the more secular LED lights, with their peculiarly pagan intensity. They brighten the darkness without any agenda other than illumination. They are, he said, winter lights.

Then, of course, we began second-guessing the concept. Is it too early for lights? Should we wait until after Thanksgiving? The neighbor across the way also got her trees "done" on Sunday -- but then she turned them off!  But it's already SO dark, and they look SO nice.

Long ago, I made my peace with those who let their outdoor lights shine long after Christmas - into January and February, and even March. Granted, my tolerance coincides with the movement away from traditional red and green. Homes now twinkle with jewel tones of sapphire, emerald, and amethyst. In those months when we go to work in darkness and come home in darkness, driving down a sparkling street helps just a little.

So I am persuaded, and rather entranced, by my husband's nuanced division of illumination into Winter Lights and Christmas Lights. While it's technically not yet winter, we have seen snowflakes, and skiddy streets, and the always amusing flat-footed sidewalk waddle, which is winter enough for me.

So we are now lit up. We call them winter lights, more about the season than any holiday.  The Christmas lights will follow after Thanksgiving and remain lit until after New Year's, maybe even until mid January, depending on whether we remember they're still on, heh. 

But the rest will continue as winter lights until we sense the meteorological light at the end of the tunnel.

So what's your time frame for lights? What's too soon? Just right? Long enough?