Christmas: Let There Be Lights

  • November 28, 2017
  • Jenna Maxwell

It's crazy how it happens. One day we're busily taking down the Halloween decor, then, just as soon as the Thanksgiving leftovers are packed away, it's time to start decorating for Christmas. It happens so fast! In days gone by, Christmas decorating was left until the last minute, mainly for practical reasons. Historically Christmas decorations were often fresh evergreens, subsequently lit with (gasp) real candles. Only the freshest trees would (hopefully) not burn the house down and even then, holiday decorating became an event that quite literally played with fire! Thankfully, we've come a long way in the realm of holiday decor since those somewhat treacherous days of yesteryear. Today's Christmas decorations are not only much safer, but they are also incredibly beautiful. Most folks are anxious to get their decorations up as soon as possible just because they want to be able to enjoy them for the entire Christmas season. Here's your guide to getting the holiday lights that are best suited for your holiday decorating needs!

Nothing gets you and your whole neighborhood into the Christmas spirit like a brightly lit home festively decorated with a variety of holiday lights. The lights that we decorate with today have changed a lot during the past several years. Here are some important distinctions that you need to know!

You may have some older Christmas lights that you have used for years and years. C7 and C9 Christmas lights have been around for decades and represent some of the most popular and traditional Christmas lights ever made. C7 and C9 reference the size of the light bulbs, C7 bulbs being about 2" long and C9 bulbs about 3" inches long. These bulbs are known for their brightness, but they do have some distinct disadvantages. These old-fashioned bulbs are made of glass and filament, and because of the growing popularity of new more energy efficient bulbs, old school C7 and C9 replacement bulbs are getting harder and harder to find, and the bulbs inevitably do burn out. For this reason and a few others, many folks are ditching their old strings of C7 and C9 bulbs and are upgrading to a similarly designed set of brand new LED holiday lights.

Mini lights have also been around for a very long time. Mini lights, or incandescent lights as they are sometimes called, are comprised of very long strings of lights, sometimes hundreds of them in one strand. Mini lights come in strands of colored or white lights and can be used indoors or outdoors, making them extremely versatile and popular for holiday decorating. There are downsides to mini lights, however, and some of them can be downright annoying. For example, in some cases, if one mini light in a strand is flawed or broken, sometimes the entire strand of lights will go dark. Finding and replacing the offending light can be time-consuming and taxing. Incandescent bulbs also tend to be much dimmer than their counterparts. Because of their small size and dim light, decorating with mini lights may not give you the dazzle you desire, particularly if you are using them on the outside of your home. Remember Clark Griswold in the holiday classic, Christmas Vacation?  Yeah, he used a whole lot of incandescent lights to get his legendary, well lit home. There might be easier ways to get the job done.

LED lights have taken the holiday lighting genre by storm, and there are many advantages to using these energy efficient, brilliant gems. First of all, LED lights use less energy, far less than C7 and C9 bulbs and still substantially less than incandescent bulbs. LED lights do not get hot like C7, C9 and mini lights do. Thus the cooler attributes of LED lights make them much safer to use, particularly on drying evergreens. LED lights are also not fragile like C7, and C9 bulbs are, and if they are dropped, they will not break. Although LED lights may cost a bit more, their durability is likely to ensure that a string of LED lights will last for a very long time. Between energy savings and quality of the light strings themselves, many folks are opting to invest in LED lights for their holiday decorating, feeling that the cost savings will pay for the bulbs over time.

Nowadays, a huge variety of holiday lighting choices are readily available in retail stores and online. Create a basic game plan for your decorations and lights to ensure that you have enough strings of lights to get the job done. With so many exciting colors, patterns and styles of lights available, consumers can easily customize their holiday decor to their own tastes, creating anything from a traditional holiday look to something far more modern and truly unique.

What Happened to Black Friday?

  • November 20, 2017
  • Jenna Maxwell

As soon as Halloween ended, there was a noticeable shift in the retail climate. It's almost as if Thanksgiving is but an afterthought because as far as your local retailers are concerned, post-Halloween, it's officially time to roll out the Christmas shopping season. Apparently, it's not too soon for retailers to start offering super holiday deals, either. "Get Black Friday prices now!" they advertise, and they mean business. Once upon a time, the Friday and weekend following Thanksgiving was the official time that a vast swath of retailer's annual sales would occur. Now it seems that Black Friday has become more of a concept rather than a particular event that happens on a specific day. The idea of holiday sales continues to expand--and truth be told, from now until Christmas Eve, it's relatively easy to find all manner of holiday promotions and deals.

Before Black Friday was even called "Black Friday," it was a big shopping day because of shoppers, not retailers. Families already gathered for Thanksgiving, turned their attention immediately to the holiday season and with an entire weekend looming ahead, started shopping for Christmas. Retailers, quick to seize upon any selling opportunity possible, fashioned sales and specials, early bird deals and stretched out their store hours - all because of that magical day that followed Thanksgiving, the notorious Black Friday.

That was then. Nowadays, a lot of the time "Black Friday" isn't even on Friday and it could just as well be called Black Thursday. Black Friday is not a day--it's a season. Big box retailers publish what will be in their Black Friday deals weeks in advance to create a lot of anticipation in potential shoppers. Many retailers are open for business on Thanksgiving Day to accommodate anxious customers who are all too happy to cash in on incredible deals. It's become a bit of a shopping frenzy in some places; with folks often waiting in line overnight to capture doorbuster deals and to be one of the first to grab those heavily discounted extra hot items. Admittedly, for the diehard, early bird sales and limited time specials are some of the best reasons to brave the crowds and head out shopping on the day after Thanksgiving.

Although the idea of Black Friday is likely not going anywhere anytime soon, the way American's shop has drastically changed, and so Black Friday has changed along with it. Black Friday today is more like an entire week of sales; perhaps it's even longer. Cyber Monday (the Monday following Black Friday) is rapidly taking over as the most significant holiday shopping day if the year and that often consists of people sitting at home at their computers doing the shopping rather than trudging through malls. The complexion of holiday shopping has shifted, and although there will always be shopping purists who enjoy the experience of store shopping as part of their holiday season, there are many more folks who'd rather not deal with the chaos and would rather just shop online.   To a large extent, Christmas is now delivered in a brown box.

Black Friday will come this year as it has in the past, but perhaps it isn't quite as relevant as it once was just a few years ago. It seems that shoppers may very well be opting for the convenience of some of the less aggravating shopping options. Let's face it; Black Friday is synonymous with crowds, lines, parking issues and admittedly, stress. With less chaotic and anxiety filled ways to shop so easily accessible, it's no wonder that consumers are quick to take advantage of them.

This year, Black Friday is on November 24 and Cyber Monday quickly follows on November 27. Happy Shopping from your friends at Halloween Express!

The Amazing Truth About Veterans Day

  • November 09, 2017
  • Jenna Maxwell

Right after Halloween, and just before Thanksgiving, is a significant event that sometimes gets overshadowed by more publicized cultural celebrations. This often-overlooked holiday is Veterans Day. Veterans Day is an important event in which the United States takes a day to show gratitude and honor the service of those who have served in all the branches of the military. Here is everything you need to know about this great event to help you make your Veterans Day even more meaningful!

  • Veterans Day was initially called Armistice Day, marking the day that ended World War I and the day an Armistice was signed between Germany and the Allied Nations. The Armistice was signed on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. Armistice Day became an important observance set aside to honor all the military veterans that served during World War I.
  • In 1926, Congress passed new legislation making Armistice Day observance an annual occasion.
  • Since 1938, Veterans Day is a State and a Federal Holiday.
  • In 1954, a World War II Veteran named Raymond weeks suggested that Veterans Day honor all veterans from all wars, not just World War 1. At this time the name Armistice Day was changed to "Veterans Day."
  • Veterans Day celebrating is marked with events honoring veterans including inspirational speeches and parades. On Veterans Day during a solemn ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, the President or another high ranking government official will lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
  • There are 21.8 million veterans currently in the United States. Of this total number of vets, 1.6 million are female.
  • 6.8 million of our veterans served in the Vietnam Era. 5.6 million served in the Persian Gulf War, (1990 to present) 930,000 served in World War II, 1.8 million during the Korean War, and there are 4.3 million veterans who served during peacetime years. The states with the most significant percentage of veterans are California, Texas and Florida.
  • Nearly 4 million of our veterans have a service-related disability, meaning they have an injury or illness that occurred because of their military service.
  • It is Veterans Day tradition to hold a two-minute period of silence at 11 AM local time.
  • Veterans Day is sometimes confused with Memorial Day. Memorial Day honors the military personnel who died while in service of their country and is observed on the fourth Monday in May.
  • If Veterans Day falls on a Saturday (like this year), most State and Federal offices will be closed the Friday before the holiday to observe the event.

"We remember those who were called upon to give all a person can give, and we remember those who were prepared to make that sacrifice if it were demanded of them in the line of duty, though it never was. Most of all, we remember the devotion and gallantry with which all of them ennobled their nation as they became champions of a noble cause." --Ronald Reagan

Veterans Day presents the perfect opportunity to thank all the Veterans in your life for their service.  These brave men and women have given so much in the name of service and love for their country. Happy Veterans Day from your friends at Halloween Express!