During a global pandemic, all is certainly not calm. But things are a little bit brighter in some neighborhoods, thanks to a growing movement that has families stringing Christmas lights, blowing up holiday inflatables and building spirit-lifting snowmen to help bring some much-needed cheer during the coronavirus crisis.
Like the popular hashtag #CoronaKindness, the idea has taken off on social media and online neighborhood groups, with people sharing their displays alongside hashtags like #LightsForLife, #ChristmasInMarch and #ChristmasLights. The brewing giant Anheuser-Busch, which just announced that it will be producing hand sanitizer, got into the spirit by turning on an elaborate display at its St. Louis headquarters.
“We’ve been inspired by Americans decorating their homes with holiday lights in the spirit of togetherness,” the company said in a statement. “We are proud to join in and turn the holiday lights on every night at our house.”
Merrymakers are also lighting up lawns and apartments in Canada, Britain and in parts of hard-hit Europe.
Media companies are putting on their Santa hats, too: Over the weekend, the Hallmark Channel aired a “We Need a Little Christmas” movie marathon featuring some of its most popular holiday titles, and some radio stations in the Midwest are playing Christmas tunes.
But decking the halls at home — even as spring starts to bloom — is a win-win on many fronts, those who have dragged out the decorations said. It’s a family-friendly activity, using items that many people already have at home, and it works well with social distancing protocols, since people can admire displays from their car windows. And even those who are sheltering in place can see them on social media.
The current trend echoes the origins of Christmas decorations, when ancient people decorated with evergreen branches during the dark days of winter, brightening their homes and reminding them that life would return in the springtime.
“We can take what’s in our house and in our yards and mix the joy of Christmas with the liveliness of spring, when everything is blooming,” said Tanner Huber, a designer in Marietta, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta, who recently decorated her house with her husband and their three children.
Then, of course, there’s the feel-good factor of brightening up someone else’s mood in these dark times. In Clover, S.C., Elizabeth and Bill Nickles and their three children got busy decorating their house with lights and a passel of inflatables and lawn characters, including kid favorites like Minnie Mouse and the “Frozen” character Olaf. On the other side of the house, they decided to go with an Easter theme, complete with a barrage of bunny inflatables.
Ms. Nickles said it’s been a big hit with local families, who sometimes stop to snap photos. “It may seem like something small, but if everyone does something small, it can make a big impact on people’s lives,” she said. “Especially with kids who are going stir-crazy in the house.”
In Natick, Mass., Summer Peeso’s family has had their programmable LED lights shining for more than a month. In addition to spreading good will among neighbors — including two emergency room doctors who live across the street — Ms. Peeso says the lights offer a fun project for her 5-year-old daughter during this difficult time.
“She is very aware of the current situation, and it helps her to have that consistent distraction at night and something to depend on despite us not always having answers to her tough questions,” Ms. Peeso wrote in an email. “She gets to create the patterns on an app so it’s interactive for her and a fun family-at-home thing we can all do to spread good cheer and give people something pretty to look at, making it less doom and gloom.”
Matt Carino, a senior studying lighting design at Pace University in New York, took advantage of being back at home in Montclair, N.J., and put his skills to use constructing a lighted “Together Apart” display in cursive lettering in front of his family’s house. Mr. Carino, known in the community for his annual Christmas display, Lights on Myrtle, used rope lights and other materials he already had on hand to make the sign, which stands amid a constellation of colorful blinking lights in the trees.
“I wanted to send a simple, strong and positive message to the community,” Mr. Carino said. “This pandemic is really hitting people hard, from having to work remotely, schools being canceled, and businesses being closed or limited.”
Spreading good cheer can be delightfully low-tech, too. Consider the snowman — complete with a face mask — that longtime friends Harlie Cowan and James Barringer decided to build around midnight one night recently when snowflakes started to fall in Portage, Mich., a suburb of Kalamazoo, where they are quarantining together. They posted photos of their creation — wearing a hat and scarf with the University of Michigan logo and illuminated by mesh lights — on social media before finally going to bed. When they woke up the following day, their snowman was something of a local celebrity after a local morning news show shared their photo.
Warm temperatures soon led to the snowman’s demise, but Mr. Cowan and Mr. Barringer had so much fun that they’re now working on a themed, all-out display.
“We might go full-on Clark Griswold,” Mr. Barringer said. “We haven’t decided yet.”
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