Sunday, December 2, 2007

The Nightly Light Contest (a Mangine family tradition)

I love Christmas lights. I mean I REALLY love them. That probably came from my dad. He loves Christmas lights and when I was growing up he was a snow plow driver. So he was out driving all over our township at all hours of the night during the Christmas season plowing roads. (I grew up in New Jersey.) Every Christmas Eve after the Christmas Eve service at Three Bridges Reformed Church, we would pile into the station wagon, turn on Christmas music and drive around looking at lights. My dad would save his "favorite" houses to show us that night.

After Nick and I first bought our house about 5 years ago, one of the great joys for us was putting up Christmas lights for the first time. That night we walked around the neighborhood and looked at other people's lights and commented about how ours were better. :)

We were pleasantly surprised by how many people had lights up, so one night we decided to count to see how many people had lights up. The next weekend we decided to walk again and this time we tried to guess at how many people would have lights up. This sort of escalated in the weeks that followed. Each year we've added new "rules" to the contest, and have improved our methods of counting.

So, in case you are wondering, YES! We DO realize we are dorks. But let me share with you the guidelines, rules and procedures for the Nightly Light Contest.

Prior to embarking on the walk, we both silently consider our guess for the nightly count, count to three and say it at the same time. (This may seem juvenile, however, we had some conflict in our family with one family member-- who shall remain nameless-- who had a habit of constantly just waiting for his wife to make her guess and then guess one over.)

We have a set "loop" we walk, with only a little bit of overlap to get to the loop. So, on the way to the loop, we only count on the RIGHT side of the road. Once we reach the loop, we count both on the left and the right. When we've finished counting the loop, we continue with the right side rule until we get back to our cul de sac.

We've recently acquired a "clicker" to keep an accurate count of houses. This has become necessary since we now have small children on the nightly walk who like to distract us and are not very good at counting, so we found ourselves floundering in certainty as to whether or not we had an accurate count. It has worked out well. Tonight Nia tried to claim our number was not right and we showed her the clicker and used our newly coined phrase, "The clicker doesn't lie."

We do NOT count a home until we are passing the driveway of said home in order to not "get ahead of ourselves" and forget whether or not something has been counted.

When passing a cul de sac or side street, we wait until we can see all the houses in the cul de sac and add all the clicks for those houses at once.

There has been a lot of discussion as to what "counts" as a holiday lights. We've come up with the following parameters.
- Any outside lights for the purpose of holiday beautification DO count.
- Any outside lights not specific to the holidays (ie. lamps on a walkway) do NOT count.
- Outside holiday decorations (wreaths, etc) do NOT count, unless they are lighted by a light specifically designed for viewing that decoration. (ie. a spotlight on a holiday display DOES count, a porch light does NOT.)
- Inside holiday lights visible from the outside do NOT count UNLESS the primary purpose of the inside lights is for external adornment. For example, a Christmas tree visible in the window of a home doesn't count. However, lighted candles in the windows DO count.

Lights can ONLY be counted if they are on.

Lights can ONLY be counted when you pass that specific driveway. For example, if you pass a home that has lights up but they are not on, you may not count it, even if you notice later that they ARE on. You may however, wait outside a home to see if lights will be turned on. (Hypothetically, of course.)

The nightly winner is the person who is closest to actual count. If the actual number is evenly in between the numbers guessed by the participants, the participant who guess the higher number will be declared winner.

In theory, you would keep track all season long (each person's guess and the actual number) and determine the seasonal winner. Interestingly, two years ago, I (Gwenn) was the winner in terms of how many nights I was closer, HOWEVER, Nick was closer overall in terms of numbers. (Meaning the nights I was off, I was very, very off.) We have since scrapped keeping track of winners.

I think that's it.

That's the tradition. I know-- pretty dorky-- but LOTS of fun.

PS-- Nick was the winner tonight. I guessed 32, he guessed 39. The actual number was 48.
(Nia guessed 20-- she's not very good at this game.)


  1. i've just spent the last 20 minutes or so catching up on on my blog subscriptions, which numbers well over 50 now. this post was HANDS DOWN the most entertaining of the day! thanks for the laugh....

  2. You guys seriously are dorks.
    (But I love you so much!)
    Have fun. I'm rooting for Gwenn, of course (actually I'm rooting for Nico...does he guess?)

  3. That's AWESOME! I love you guys! You make me smile... :)

  4. Gwenn, what happens to the count if,like our house, our externally lit holiday decoration are in the rear of the house (where they can be seen by the drive-bys), but may only be seen by a very tall person who was walking around the front of our house (where most walkers would be)????



Hey y'all. Allowing comments now after a long time of not. Please be respectful.