You’ve been seeing Christmas displays in stores since October, and by the time the holidays are over, you’re probably more than ready to turn off the seasonal jingles and ditch the Christmas cookies for some clean eating. So when your neighbors’ Christmas lights stay bright deep into the new year, you could start feeling like a Grinch.
“By the time New Years is around, people are ready to put festivities behind them and look to the new year,” says New York-based etiquette expert “Mister Manners” Thomas Farley. “They’re mentally looking to move on, and when they see around them reminders of a celebration that in their mind is long over, that can be bothersome.”
Most people expect Christmas lights to be gone by the second week of January, or the end of the month at latest, he says. Leaving Christmas lights up any longer can start to look like laziness and neglect, making you feel self-conscious about the homes around yours. “You don’t want to look like you live in a neighborhood where people are out of touch, because that reflects on you,” says Farley.
First of all, try find it in your heart to accept your neighbor’s choices about how long to leave up their Christmas lights. You wouldn’t call your neighbors out for gaudy lawn décor or an ugly outfit, and it’s not your place to decide how long they keep up holiday decorations either, says Farley. But if the frustration is getting the better of you, you’ve got options.
You might assume your neighbors are being lazy, but they might just have trouble taking the holiday decorations down. Older neighbors who can’t climb ladders could be waiting for a son or daughter to visit before taking them down. In that case, offer to lend a hand with the lights if they need help. “You’re simultaneously dealing with a display that has outlived its shelf life and helping someone in need who might simply be afraid of asking for assistance,” says Farley.
If you’re pretty sure your neighbors can take care of their own Christmas lights, though, making a joke keeps things lighthearted. Try something like, “You’ve gotten your money’s worth out of your holiday lights this year—it must be putting a drain in your electric bill,” suggests Farley. You’ll gently prod your neighbors without seeming condescending.
If you’re the one who can’t bear to take down the decorations just yet, tweak your setup a bit so it fits the time of year better. For instance, you could keep your lights up but swap out your inflatable Santa for some illuminated hearts. “Especially in the bleak winter, some bright white lights or blue lights can help keep things cheerful when the trees are not in bloom,” Farley says. “There’s nothing wrong with being festive, but it’s good to be timely and in accordance with the season.”