24 December 2008

Christmas Eve

Just had to put up a post of my house on Christmas Eve. The lawn is well-lit due to the overhead streetlight.

Not the greatest picture with the dark. Oddly enough, our house does not have an external electrical outlet anywhere near the front of the building. This makes it a mite difficult to do electric lights. Even if there were an outlet, I wouldn't want to decorate the eaves -- that 45-degree pitch does not make anybody want to crawl up on the roof. And the apex of the roof is plenty high enough that a plain eight-foot step ladder is inadequate to the task. Thus, the classic non-electric luminarias. Maybe some year I'll get fancy and cut out patterns or make colored pictures on them or something.

By the way, these are also very economical. They consist of sand (Home Depot), plain paper lunch bags (Kroger), tea lights (Michael's or Hobby Lobby), and empty glass salsa jars (Kroger or Publix). If you plan ahead, you just save the empty salsa jars from Dungeons and Dragons games, game nights, or football parties. You might be surprised at how quickly you'll have a dozen or however many you need. I keep the sand in a big bucket in the garage. Using a trowel, put a couple scoops of sand in each bag. Place bags along front walk. Straighten the wick on each tea candle and drop one candle into each glass jar. Gather up all the glass jar with candles out on front walk. Using a long fireplace match, light all the candles. Being careful not to put a hand directly above the flame, place one jar with candle in each bag. The sand should help hold the bags in place and also help with leveling the jars. After the holidays, the candle remnants can be tossed/recycled. The sand gets dumped back into the bucket in the garage. The paper bags can be kept for next year or sent to paper recycling, depending on their state of decay. And the dozen (or more) glass jars can be washed and put away in a box to await next year. I can't make any guarantees about fire safety, but I can state that this method has worked well for me personally. The jars are tall enough that even if a stiff wind blows, the tea light flame shouldn't get close enough to light the paper bag. And the jars are tall enough and wide enough that there is some distance from the flame, so the glass doesn't get too hot.

Merry Christmas! Enjoy this special sacred night with those you love.

Edit: The gentle mist that had fallen earlier this evening turned into a solid downpour around 9:30 PM. The candle flames lasted for about two hours before being drenched into oblivion. Maybe those electric thingies aren't such a bad idea after all?

1 comment:

Greg! said...

I can empathize with the luminaria quenching. I did these one or two times a number of years back. They're really quite lovely with snow on the ground.

The first time I did them was wholly improvised: brown lunch bags, sand (probably borrowed from the big bin of excess sandbag sand at the Players Club) and an assortment of votive and tealight candles. Ever adventurous, I didn't bother with jars. That's what the sand was for -- if the bag caught it could only burn down to an inch or so above its base, at which point whatever flame there might be would be snuffed by the sand. Likewise for the candle itself -- when it burn down to the sand, it would snuff out. Maybe it's the odd emphases of my background, but I tend to think of sand as a fire extinguisher as readily as I do water, often before. And bear in mind that I was setting these out in the snow...

Of course, once the idea caught on people started selling the things. Mom ordered them in a couple of variations (I remember one set that was half red bags, half green. Less attractive than one might imagine) and I put them out in welcoming weather. I guess it's owed to a combination of off-putting weather followed by circumstance, but I still have several of these "kits" sitting in a closet. One set actually has the bags perforated a la cut-out snowflakes (they stole your idea); those'd look particularly nice in snow, if we ever get a snowy Christmas Eve again and if I ever get to really decorating again...