‘Tis the season for boughs of holly, Christmas trees, and lights all aglow. But each year, the heated argument returns: should those lights be clear, or colored?
Colored lights are more appropriate for the Christmas season than white lights. Colored lights are used exclusively for holiday decorating, which keeps them set apart as a sign of Christmas. The colors also add a cheerful, festive element to other decorations, which white lights cannot do.
Clear lights decorate dorm rooms, formal events, and country clubs all year round, which waters down their effect during the holiday season. Since passersby are accustomed to seeing white lights everywhere, their appearance on lampposts in late November is less effective than their colored counterparts.
Conversely, the best proof that colored lights are uniquely appropriate for Christmas is that they are almost never used for anything else. They would look odd at a wedding, or draped across a dorm room wall with photographs clothespinned to the cord. But as soon as most of the turkey is out of grocery-store freezers, colored lights are festooned everywhere to signal that Christmas is coming.
Defenders of clear lights emphasize their elegance and simplicity. They argue that white lights make other decorations, such as tree ornaments, more visible because colors are not distorted by clear light.
While all this is true, that clear light is the same light that makes homework more visible via a desk lamp. There is nothing uniquely festive or special about white light, especially in the modern age, when all light after 6 p.m. is white and artificial.
Colored lights do alter the appearance of other decorations, but the colored light adds to the effect, rather than detracting from it. Colored lights cast a muted, rosy glow only found at Christmas, creating a cheerful, cozy, and festive ambiance. Similar to the warm light of a fireplace, the colored lights inspire a contented feeling of being home for the holidays that clear lights simply cannot achieve.
White-light advocates also claim that white lights are more versatile, because they are easier to match with home decor. However, Christmas decorations almost never match the home regardless. Dark-green garlands and fire-engine-red Santas often clash with the wallpaper and curtains, but that stops no one from putting pine branches and jolly St. Nicks on every flat surface in the house.
Colored Christmas lights are more appropriate because they capture the season in a unique and special way. Used only at Christmas time, the warm light they cast becomes associated with family, home-cooked food, the smell of pine, “It’s A Wonderful Life,” the crunch and crinkle of wrapping paper, and a deep appreciation for the blessings only Christmas can bring.
Ms. Blatter is a senior studying history and English.