As I write this the football (soccer) World Cup is taking place in South Africa with England and the USA in the same group. The sun is shining and we are coming up to the longest day of the year. It seems a weird time to be thinking about what to do at Christmas but for me that is exactly what has been happening over the last month.
May and June are my times for planning this year’s display. What went well last year, what didn’t go quite so well, what is new for this year and what needs to be retired or reworked?
July through September is for pulling all the plans together. It’s the time for building any new pieces, repairing any damaged items, sequencing to the new layout and adding new songs.
October and the beginning of November sees final testing. The end of November is the time to install the lights and get ready for the big switch on, Sunday December 5th at 4:00pm (the first Sunday in December.)
January 2nd sees the lights going off for the last time this season (the first Sunday in January) followed by teardown and put away. January also sees the Harrogate Christmas Trade Fair and the Birmingham Gift Fair.
It’s then time for a rest in February, March and April. All in all it was quite a busy year.
Looking back on last year (2009), the grid tree and fireworks light went spectacularly well. The twig trees were a big hit as were the polar bears, Santas and snowmen. People liked the multi-colour icicle lights and the big present. The doorway arch and adjacent trees went over well. The leaping arches were a disappointment as were the house stars. The horse and carriage needs to be repaired, as do seven strings of lights. Musically, the vast majority of the tunes went well with the major exception being Also Sprach Zarathusa (aka: 2001: A Space Odyssey theme song) used as a show opener.
So what are the plans for this year and how can I make things better? When I had the leaping arches made (two meters wide by one meter high, galvanised steel) the metalworker fabricated ten of them. Four were used last year to line one side of the garden. This meant they were not prominent in the display and as a result faded into the background. If I put the rest of the arches around the remainder of the perimeter, this would use all of them but wouldn’t really give them any significance. Put them round the grid tree? This would be nice but again not really provide them the centre stage they deserve. Then it came to me. The perfect place is right at the front of the garden where the polar bears and penguins were located last year. Place six arches in a circular pattern around a central pole so they are right at the front of the garden. The grid tree can be moved slightly back towards the house or even to the side. There are seven light channels per arch. The middle pole is the fireworks light pole with the topper but not the fireworks. Nine sections of lights with 200 icicles wrapped around the topper will be good. Between each section of the arches a rope light going all the way around the circle. There will be 42 sets of lights for the arches (six arches times seven light channels each), nine sets for the pole, two icicles for the topper and the six by 15 meter rope lights, all in white. A little arithmetic means 59 light channels will be needed to control it all. The arches can spin, go in and out, meet in the middle, out to in and up the pole, down the pole and in to out, rope lights in to out and out to in. There are endless possibilities. I’m getting excited. Now what do I call it? I know a Spider Fountain…
What else do I add this year? My wife asked for outlines on all the windows so they can go on. I quite like the look of the LED trees that SnowTime was displaying at the Christmas Fair earlier this year. So maybe three of them (green, white and blue.) The design is now finalised.
What new songs do I add? What will I use as show opener? Time to start listening to the Christmas CD’s again. I’m thinking maybe three new songs this year. Add them to the 11 remaining from last year and that makes 14 songs to either update or sequence from scratch. The updates shouldn’t be too bad, maybe five hours each and 20 hours for the new songs. 115 hours (three weeks full time work.) Sounds a bit daunting! Or I can think of it as an hour a day for 16 weeks. Three and a half months. Not too bad. Start today and I will be finished by the end of September.
I will get started straight after the England game finishes. No wait… Argentina plays after that. Tomorrow, definitely. Although it is Italy tomorrow, Spain the day after. Five hours straight on Saturday definitely. I’m still confused. I’ll let you know.
This article was included in the September 2010 issue of PlanetChristmas Magazine.
By David Grant