The holidays are obviously upon us as you drive up and down streets and see the pretty colored and white lights adorning houses and businesses alike, transforming dreary winter nights into festive celebrations of light.
This tradition of festooning homes with lights has been part of the American landscape since the 1880s, believe it or not. In fact, in 1895 President Grover Cleveland was the first to display electric Christmas tree lights on a tree in the White House.
And despite the ups and downs of the economy, the tradition only seems to grow stronger. Now there are icicle lights to hang from gutters, nets of lights that easily cover your bushes and free-standing light sculptures in the shape of everything from candy canes to reindeer and snowmen.
In addition, there are plenty of services willing to take the work out of putting up holiday lights for the homeowner. Many companies that clean gutters, wash windows or do landscaping the rest of the year spend November and December putting up Christmas lights instead.
Kim Soifer of Frosty's Holiday Lighting in Park Ridge owns a company that cleans gutters. "Every year I would lose some of my workers during the winter because I didn't have enough work to keep them busy.
"One year I had another company come to my house to give me an estimate for decorating my house, and that was when I realized that it would be a good business for me during our off-season," she said.
"Ladders and heights don't bother my workers because they are up on ladders all the time when they are cleaning gutters and it keeps them busy for a few more months every year," Soifer said.
"It was a good fit for us and I love Christmas, so the last four years of doing Christmas lights has been fun," she added.
Soifer says time is limited during the season, so she only schedules jobs to decorate between 75 and 100 homes each year. Workers start putting up the lights right after Halloween and continue as late as Dec. 21 (for those who planned to do it themselves but never found the time!).
"Many of our clients have called because they just don't want their husband up on a ladder," she said.
"I run two or three crews of two or three men each," Soifer said. "Our heaviest weeks are from right after Thanksgiving until about Dec. 11.
"Most of my clients know exactly what they want and I do it for them. Others ask for ideas and I have lots of those to give," she laughed. "In every case we try to make our light displays tasteful. No one wants their home to look like something out of 'Christmas Vacation.' "
Soifer supplies all of the necessary lights, cords, clips and timers. If something goes wrong, like the ice storm we experienced a few years ago, her crews go back out and maintain the displays.
In early January, they begin removing the lights, based on the preferences of the individual clients. Some people want them down immediately while others like to keep them up well into January.
"We recycle the plastic that we can, but we do not save the small twinkle lights from year to year. They are not made that well. One year is enough. We do reuse the big lights, artificial wreaths and garlands that some clients choose to use, however," Soifer said.
She said that her typical price is around $700 per home. That includes purchase of the lights and installation, maintenance and removal of enough lights to decorate the roofline of a two-story home with peaks; put lights on surrounding trees and bushes; and a lit wreath on the door.
She does not enforce a minimum on her installations, so someone who wants something less than average can be accommodated, Soifer said.
Mary and Greg Duckson of Barrington have used the services of Frosty's Holiday Lighting for two years.
"We have two kids in hockey so our weekends are really busy," Mary said. "We just don't have time to get the lights up ourselves.
"Frosty's brings everything, sets them up and takes them back down. I don't even have to go buy the stuff," she said.
The company adorns the Ducksons' roofline with lights, installs a lit garland around their pillar, puts lighted wreaths on their gate and lights up lots of trees and bushes all around the home.
"They do a lot more than we would do if it were left up to us," Mary admitted. "And they are so nice to work with. I plan to use them for my lights for the foreseeable future."
Frosty's can be reached at (847) 414-3732.
More holiday lighting services
Mariani Landscape of Lake Bluff can adorn your home's interior and exterior with holiday lighting to create simple, seasonal elegance. Mariani also provides holiday tree cutting (interior and exterior), evergreen and festive bows for bedding and decorative exterior containers. Shop Mariani's holiday boutique, 300 Rockland Road, Lake Bluff, for special handmade wreaths, fresh bunch holiday greens and other holiday arrangements from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. through Dec. 20. Call (847) 810-6958.
Light Up Your Holidays
Owned by Kelly Fitzsimmons, Light Up Your Holidays has been in the holiday lighting business since 2000. The company now boasts more than 100 clients in the North and Northwest suburbs. Installations range from $1,000 to $20,000, depending on the intricacy of the job. The price includes storage of lights and décor after the season ends. Call (773) 398-7551 or visit lightupyourholidays.com.
M&G Window Washing and Gutter Cleaning
Based in Des Plaines, M&G purchases lights and installs them on homes within a 40-mile radius of Des Plaines, said Greg Drapczyanski, owner. They will install lights homeowners already own or buy new ones at a discount. Drapczyanski said his crews can decorate trees as high as 25 feet, do home silhouettes and install wreaths, garlands and lawn ornaments. Off-season storage in its warehouse is free. Call (847) 533-7813 or (630) 285-1207.