Houses dripping in Christmas lights don’t get that way through armies of elves summoned by an elf app.
In our household, my two daughters and myself can be found throughout November, traipsing sweatily up the Hill of Doom in our backyard to our gecko infested storage shed, and returning dragging mountains of boxes and hordes of lighting displays.
Our faces take on a sunburnt neon glow as we untangle monstrous bundles of wires, while loudly debating where pieces should go in the garden this year.
We spend the national debt of a small country on things that glow, spin and shine, and would be terrified to put a dollar value on the time spent creating, tending, powering and storing our display over the years.
Years ago we used to enter the Christmas light competitions, taking home a number of prizes. Those were the crazy years of bus tours in our tiny cul-de-sac and cars parked as far as the eye can see.
Now we just do our lights for the people in the streets around us, and for people in the know.
Our lights have less rah-rah and crazy intensity (we donated many of our larger pieces to charities), and more subtle celebrations.
So why do we do it?
Some years, running a small business can feel as if you are an ant taking on an army of giants with nothing but a matchstick-sized sword.
The never-ending cycle of bills, marketing and hustling till it hurts can leave you as cynical and burned out as a piece of bread left in a toaster set on high for 10 minutes.
It is in those years when we have nothing emotionally left inside to give at the end of the year, that our little strings of twinkling lights turn things around.
Why do we do Christmas lights?
For us, giving back to people can take many forms – none is better or worse than the other.
Right now, during December, our way of giving back is through helping people to get off the overwhelm wagon for a few moments and reconnect with their childlike wonder and happiness as they gaze at the lights.
We do our Christmas lights simply because it makes people happy.
We do it to see the toddlers in their pyjamas come to our home every night before bed, clutching their teddies tightly in their hands as they say goodnight to our reindeer.
We do it to chat to the random people walking past with their dogs who stop to have a yarn while we tend our display at night.
We do it to share the cookies the neighbours bring over to have with a cuppa as we stand outside to chat and enjoy the lights.
We do it to meet new neighbours in the area who come to introduce themselves after a thousand nods as our cars pass during the year.
We do it because our neighbours ask if we are doing the lights this year, so they can plan their dinner parties for their friends and relatives to come over and enjoy the lights with all of us.
We do it because it builds and strengthens our little community, and reduces the stress and bad day feelings for just for a few moments for the people around us.
Running a solo business can be achingly lonely. You are always the one going out to connect with clients and colleagues. You are always the one taking the first step – brushing yourself off after rejection after rejection, and dancing with joy when someone says, “Yes!”
Christmas lights swap this dynamic around.
They are like a beacon that attract amazing people and families directly to you where you live. They are the welcome first step to offline friendships and connection. They break the ice in a way that nothing else seems to do.
I would be lying if I didn’t say that Christmas lights didn’t also bring in business and new partnerships.
When you chat informally over Christmas lights, people naturally want to know what you do. Sometimes this turns into business down the track, but that is just a happy by-product and not the overarching goal.
Instead, the super selfish reason we continue to do Christmas lights each year is simply because it brings tiny sparks of joy to oodles of people … including our family.
Sometimes doing something just to make people happy is enough of a reason.
What makes you happy at Christmas?