How to Host a Christmas Light Contest

lights on home
A family in Duisburg, Germany switches on their 100,000 Christmas lights on Nov. 29, 2020. The display will remain up until Jan. 6. Ying Tang/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Your outdoor masterpiece has taken days of preparation, but you know it'll make your house the talk of the neighborhood. After placing a final string of lights on the bushes, you plug in the cord and voila! A stunning display of electric holiday cheer. But your neighbor is also finishing up his own massive Christmas lights spectacle. Maybe it's time for a friendly competition between the two of you, you think. Next thing you know, other neighbors want in on the fun, and you've suddenly got the makings of a Christmas contest that will make the holidays brighter -- literally.

With a little organization and preparation, hosting a Christmas light contest is easy. First, define the contest area. This can be as small as a few homes or as large as a neighborhood competition. If the Christmas spirit is overflowing, it could even be a town-wide celebration.


Next, define the rules. You may want to have a theme to spark people's creativity. If the contest is large, consider having different categories like "traditional" or "best lights" and create categories for each type of home, including apartments, duplexes and single-family residences. Pick a date by which houses must be decorated, and specify the day and time for judging and the announcement of the winners.

The organizers of the event should decide who will judge the entrants and how formal the process will be. The judges should all be impartial third parties, so if the competition is just between a few homes or along a single block, ask neighbors from a few streets over to decide the winner. If it's a subdivision-wide contest, ask officers of your homeowners' association to serve as judges. For an event in which anyone from the town can participate, consider having elected officials act as judges, or ask local celebrities or respected citizens -- such as radio hosts and business owners -- to choose the winners. Judges should score entries on different variables. The public could also be allowed to vote through voting boxes placed at each house.

Having a contest means prizes. This could be as simple as bragging rights, a homemade ribbon or certificate or as big as a cash award. If you're offering a substantial prize, consider charging an entry fee or getting funding from a neighborhood association. You can also try to find a business sponsor who has ties to the community and who could benefit from some free advertising.

Finally, get people involved. Post flyers with information and talk up the contest with your neighbors. Use Internet resources, like local news Web sites, town calendars and social media to get the word out.


Tips for Hosting a Christmas Light Contest

While having a Christmas light contest is fun, it's also one more thing to do during an already busy time of year. Be prepared to spend some time organizing the event, particularly if it's a large one. A homeowners' association may need volunteers to help with certain tasks, such as organizing entrants or promoting the displays. Even a local government could likely benefit from volunteer assistance when planning a town-wide contest, particularly if the community's budget is tight and it can't afford the manpower necessary for such a task.

Putting together a judges panel might be a little difficult, especially since people tend to get emotional about their light displays. Although event organizers should always emphasize a spirit of good will, if the contest becomes overly competitive, it may be a good idea to keep the judges' identities anonymous. In these situations, having the public vote may be a better option, but be sure to come up with a rule that prevents entrants from stuffing their own ballot boxes.


To get both participants and traffic to the neighborhood, build your own Web site, where you can post contest rules and information. Design a flyer and write a press release that you can send to local Web sites, newspapers and television and radio stations to promote the contest. If the event seems newsworthy enough, it may receive some media coverage, which is the best and most effective form of free advertising!

To target willing sponsors, think about which businesses would be likely to help your cause. The local electric company is an obvious choice, but community-based business like a real estate company may also want to get its name out in your neighborhood. As an incentive for sponsors, make sure the companies' names are on any flyers you distribute, are included in the press releases and are on any signage used for the contest. For example, if you have a sign at each house that's taking part in the competition, be sure to include each sponsor's name or logo on it.

Most importantly, no matter how big or small your contest is, keep the spirit of the season in mind and do your best to ensure that it remains a fun and friendly competition!


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More Great Links

  • Allen, Shea. "Christmas Lights & Your Power Bill." Dec. 21, 2011. (March 10, 2012)
  • Blathaser, Jonathan. "20 Secrets Behind Unbelievable Christmas Lights Displays." ABC News. Dec. 21, 2011. (March 10, 2012)
  • Boatwright, Christine. "Christmas light competition heats up." Shelby County Reporter. Dec. 14, 2011. (March 10, 2012)
  • Celebration Florida Magazine. "Celebration Christmas Lights Contest Winners." March 28, 2010. (March 10, 2012)
  • Library of Congress. "Who invented electric Christmas lights?" (March 10, 2012)
  • News-Review, the. "Pilkington's Win Sigourney Holiday Lighting Display Contest." Dec. 16, 2009. (March 10, 2012)
  • Scheckler, Christian. "Faces light up for Electric Avenue Christmas display." The News-Sentinel. Dec. 24, 2011. (March 10, 2012)
  • Tavaziva, Thomas. "Christmas lights contest really brightens up the neighborhood." Harker Heights Evening Star. Dec. 5, 2011. (March 10, 2012)