Why decorating for Christmas is a joy and a pain in Wisconsin – plus what to do about it

I love how winter actually feels like winter in Wisconsin. Sometimes it’s hard to get into the holiday spirit in So Cal when the weather is still nice enough to go to the beach. Wisconsin’s weather makes me significantly more excited to decorate for the holidays, but I can’t figure out how to do it. In So Cal, I always waited til after Thanksgiving (like my mom insisted) and til weekends or after work. This year, I’ve realized I desperately need to rethink my strategy. It shouldn’t be this hard to decorate, but I’ve spent the past week admitting defeat while admiring with jealousy the beautiful lights in my neighbors’ yards.

How cute is this?!?

My first hurdle is parenthood. I’ve got a son who is about a year old, plus another one on the way. My partner and I make a good team, but that usually involves both of us doing things at the same timeone of us feeds the kid while the other cooks dinner and preps a bath. This is not the time for one of us to be battling with icicle lights outside.

Mmmm, spaghetti!!!

Since parenting a toddler is hard work, the last thing I want to do when we finally get him down for bed is more work – especially physical work outside. This breaks my previous strategy of putting up decorations after work. Weekends are a different story. Weekends would be a perfect opportunity to decorate if it weren’t for hurdle #2.

It’s really cold outside.

Heading into Thanksgiving weekend I was excited to decorate with the new holiday lights I’d found on clearance the day after Christmas last year. I diligently waited til after Thanksgiving and Saturday I realized I’d been a fool for waiting so long.

When I went outside to mentally strategize and scope out my yard (as if I’d never properly looked at it before?) my hands and face started aching. It was only 30-something degrees outside, not THAT cold (<– that’s the Wisconsin POV for you right there since I’m expecting some sub-zero temperatures in my near future). Turns out 30-something degrees is still too cold for this So Cal girl/heat-seeking lizard to be outside.

Since I spent the best years of my (young) life in San Diego (#UCSDforever), this meme is especially endearing to me.

I don’t remember this being a problem for me my first winter in Wisconsin…that was two years ago though, what I’m told now was a “mild winter”. I think that means there was more sun and less snow. Last year I can’t remember if I even got around to decorating – my son was 4-months old so everything around that time is a blur.

So here I am, trying to take advantage of the sunshine, some lulls between work meetings, and the fact my son is in daycare. Thus far I’ve managed to decorate, un-decorate, and redecorate one tree in our yard (I had to undo my decor when I realized my first attempt looked hideous). I may or may not brave the elements and go back outside one more time before the end of the work day, but I was inspired to make some notes for my future self.

1-Put up the outdoor lights before Halloween.

Yes, I’m going to be one of those people who decorates for Christmas before Halloween. It’s not like I have to turn the lights on at night, plus it might be warm enough for me to do a better job so the cords don’t look so ugly in the daylight.

The So Cal girl in me can’t believe I’m saying this idea but there’s another part of me that can’t get past how much it snowed on Halloween this year.

2-More shark, less ladder.

I bought one of those light projector systems my first winter in Wisconsin and it didn’t last the season. And that was a “mild winter”. I don’t have the time or the patience to hang lights from the roof, even though icicles over the door look beautiful. There’s (probably) no shame in winding some pretty lights around the pillars on our front porch, and it involves less time on a ladder. Win-win.

Image comes from the appropriately titled blog post, “Target is Selling a Light-Up Christmas Shark”

In addition to the outdoor lights I found on clearance the day after Christmas, I also found a lawn shark. He’s so cute and blue, and he reminds me of the ocean. During Black Friday shopping this year, I spotted a light-up Narwhal – wouldn’t that make the perfect addition? Maybe every year I can acquire one new ocean-like creature for holiday decor. These lawn light creatures are so easy to set-up, plus after a few years my front lawn will really have this ocean theme going. My holiday decor might not be the prettiest, but it’ll be memorable.

3-Make time to see someone else’s lights.

This might be a little less feasible than the previous two since I should be a mom of two (not including Gjalla bear) next Christmas. But I would really like to make time to go see the professional light displays. There are a bunch of those around me in Wisconsin (like this one), and they’ve been on my To-Do list for two years now.

If I plan things far enough in advance, I can get a babysitter for my littles and spend a nice date night looking at holiday lights with my hubby (whose attendance is required since he always radiates so much heat). This sounds doable, and enjoyable…

What tips/tricks have you learned to make holiday decorating easier?

Thanks for reading West Coast Meets Midwest! I’d love your thoughts on this – what are your hurdles for decorating (for any holiday you care about) and how do you handle it?

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