Adding holiday lights to your home’s exterior is a time-honored tradition that shows your neighbors just how much you love Christmas and how creative you are! Yet sometimes, sadly, these well-intentioned efforts can take a dark turn.
Don’t believe us? Let these recent Christmas decor fails below show how even the most innocent string of lights can lead to trouble, from $2,000 fines and 911 calls to a night in the slammer. Consider this a list of what not to do this year.
1. Don’t do holiday displays that prompt 911 calls
Remember that scene from “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” where Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) attempts to hang lights, loses his ladder, and ends up clinging to the roof? Chris Heerlein of Austin, TX, recently decided to display the same scene with some lights, a ladder, and a dummy. Pretty darn funny, right?
Alas, the Heerlein family’s display looked so convincing, one passerby thought the dummy was real—and called 911. According to the Washington Post, cops soon arrived only to realize it was a false alarm. Since then, the Heerleins have added a sign saying, “Clark G is part of our Christmas display, please do not call 911″—to keep other easily duped good Samaritans at bay.
2. Attracting crowds? You may have to pay to control ’em
Kris and Thomas Apruzzi‘s light-filled holiday display at their home in Old Bridge, NJ, was so incredible, it traditionally attracted huge crowds—and therein lay the problem. Because the glut of cars in the area was causing gridlock, the city informed the Apruzzis that they’d have to pay for the cops dispatched to manage the masses around their home. The cost for their services? $2,000 per day.
The Apruzzis refused to pay, telling CBS News, “We’re getting a lot of support from the neighbors and from the public.” This standoff isn’t over yet, although talks are in the works to move this display to a bigger area where cars can drive through without cop control.
3. Don’t try to make money off your onlookers, either
For the past 30 years, Lee Sepanek of Phoenix had been putting on a show-stopping holiday light display in his yard that regularly ran up a whopping $10,000 in supplies and electric bills. To help offset those costs, he came up with a genius idea: selling hot cocoa and cookies to all the hungry light-lookers!
Yet in 2017, city officials told Sepanek to stick a fork in his budding business venture, because he lacked a sales permit. Unable to afford the display otherwise, Sepanek pulled the plug.
“I even bought a whole bunch of new stuff,” Sepanek lamented to Phoenix’s Fox 10. “Now they’re in storage.”
However, he did set up a GoFundMe page with the hopes he’ll receive enough donations to bring back the light display. So far, he’s made $1,220—at that rate, he may be up and running, oh, around five years from now.
4. Don’t blast holiday tunes 24/7
If you’re a big fan of everything from Wham‘s holiday hits to the Chipmunks crooning about Christmas, you may want to keep this in mind before you set up speakers to blare your yuletide favorites for all to hear.
In 2016, New York City attorney Nick Wilder was subject to his neighbor Lisa Maria Falcone‘s holiday display featuring a singing reindeer—equipped with a loudspeaker blaring “Jingle Bells” from 7 a.m. until midnight every day. According to the New York Post, Wilder sought a government injunction to force her to stop, and also complained about how he’d like his neighbor to “show some Christmas spirit by being considerate and stop annoying the entire neighborhood.”
Whether Wilder’s efforts to silence his neighbor paid off or not remain unknown, but suffice it to say we feel (or rather, hear) his pain.
“I like a Christmas song on Christmas Day. But I’m tired of hearing ‘Jingle Bells,’ like, 700 or 800 times a day,” he told the Post.
5. Don’t hang your lights in X-rated shapes
— Lancashire Post (@leponline) December 21, 2016
In 2016, Steve McGawley of Blackpool, England, decided to string up the lights in front of his home to look like something you might see only at the Playboy mansion: a massive, twinkling penis.
After eliciting a whole lot of head-shaking from the neighbors, McGawley’s display brought the cops to his door, asking him to take it down. According to the Blackpool Gazette, McGawley offered to turn it off, but the cops said that wasn’t enough. In the end, they arrested him, and, once released, he issued an apology by (you guessed it) restringing his lights in a different shape—as the letters S-O-R-R-Y.
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