By Joanna Roughton.
Be honest. Do you think people who shroud their homes in Christmas lights are, well, a little odd?
I’m firmly in the: “well, I wouldn’t do it, but I’m glad they have” camp.
Partly, this is because my children adore one house in particular.
For the last six years, since we moved to our current home, they have goggled at the display bedecking one semi-detached property overlooking the local train station.
Every year on the stroke of December 1st, the illuminations appear again and remain there until Twelfth Night.
The display is always the same.
Multi-coloured bulbs festoon the walls, roof and garden.
Some people are sniffy about homes like this.
They are a naff, kitsch attempt to enforce seasonal jollification on neighbours and passers-by.
And, perhaps if I was living next door to a home that could be seen by the International Space Station, then I might be less enthusiastic.
But, just as I smile when I walk past a well-kept front garden, I find myself suffused with good-humour when I see our local house of lights.
It is a small act of kindness in a world where neighbourliness is in decline.
Someone has taken the time, and laid out no small amount of cash, to create something which a community can share.
The temptation is to sneer, to see in the display the fingerprints of a tasteless show-off.
But, to my mind, this is a reaction that we must rise above.
Certainly, there can be difficulties.
Sometimes residential streets can witness an arms race between householders who want to ‘keep up with the Jones’s’ in the most visual manner imaginable.
Eco-warriors occasionally complain about the carbon footprint of all those unnecessarily burning light bulbs.
And, when a home assumes local notoriety, there can be minor traffic jams as people flock to see what – briefly – becomes a tourist attraction.
But if we shudder we might want to think twice.
If the Christmas message is about anything then it means making strangers welcome.