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Outdoor Christmas Decoration Ideas And Tips

Lauren NowackiNovember 28, 2019

There’s a popular scene in the beloved holiday classic “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” when, after spending all day setting up his outdoor Christmas decorations, protagonist Clark Griswold triumphantly connects the power sources to turn on his dazzling display and then… nothing happens. For the next few minutes he checks bulbs and outlets, consults the manual and frantically shakes the cords before taking his aggression out on unsuspecting lawn figurines.

It’s a favorite scene among many fans, probably because it’s so relatable, from the hope that comes as we unbox the outdoor decorations to the frustration that causes us to punch a plastic Santa in the face. But then, just as it happens in the movie, the lights come on and fill onlookers with joy. It’s officially Christmas time.

Are you ready to get your home in the holiday spirit? Follow these tips and find some decoration inspiration so you can skip the Clark Griswold-like breakdown and move right to the part where the lights come on and the family gathers to soak it all in.

5 Outdoor Christmas Decoration Ideas

Before you pull all the decorations out, decide how you’re going to decorate the outside of your home. If your lack of ideas is leaving you frozen as Frosty, we’re here to help. While there are tons of ways to decorate the outside of your home for the holidays – and no wrong way, we might add – we’re sharing our five favorite outdoor Christmas decoration ideas for this season.

Classic Christmas

Classic Christmas house decoration.

There’s nothing wrong with sticking with a timeless Christmas display. This type of holiday decor is simple, elegant and steeped in tradition. If you want your house to look like it came right off of a Christmas card, stick with the classics: small, potted Christmas trees, white lights, red bows and wreath and garland made of pine or balsam fir. Stick to the traditional colors, too, using a scheme of pine green, heart red and snow white.

1.    Fresh Balsam Fir Christmas Wreath – $16.98

2.    National Tree 4-Foot Crestwood Spruce Entrance Tree – $39.86

3.    National Tree 9-Foot Crestwood Spruce Garland – $27.55

4.    12-Inch Red Velvet Christmas Bow - $22.10

Hodgepodge Holiday

Over-the-top Christmas lights.

Just like the ugly sweater, hodgepodge Christmas decorations are some of the gaudy holiday items that hold a special place in our hearts. These are the types of decorations that can make you feel like a kid again because they’re fun, festive and often sentimental. To achieve this cherished look, blend classic holiday decorations with ones that show off your personality and humor. There is no theme, per se; it’s more of a mix of your favorite holiday decorations, both new and old, in an assortment of mediums (inflatables, plastics, signs, ribbon, garland, etc.) and paired with an abundance of Christmas lights in a variety of colors.

Of course, no hodgepodge look would be complete without a classic holiday blow mold or two. Reaching peak popularity in the ’50s, holiday blow molds are the hard plastic, light up figurines you may have seen decorating your own yard in the ’80s and ’90s, before inflatables took over. With many of the blow mold manufacturers having closed their doors, these outdoor decorations can be harder to find and more expensive to purchase. If you can’t find one of these vintage gems hiding in your grandparent’s basement, you can purchase used ones on eBay, Amazon or, if you’re lucky, your local thrift store.

1.    Christmas Incandescent Tinsel Cactus – $40.00

2.    6-Foot Christmas Inflatable – $79.99

3.    Union Products Santa With List Blow Mold - $119.95

4.     Pink Inc. SR2 SantaMingo Rein Mingo Pair – $29.63

Visit To The North Pole

Sleigh and reindeer made out of Christmas lights.

The North Pole and all of its inhabitants are often the things that make Christmas so magical. Bring the magic to your own front yard with outdoor holiday decor that makes it feel like you’re there. To transport your home to the northernmost point on Earth, deck your lawn with figurines of Santa, elves, reindeer, candy canes, snowmen, polar bears, penguins and signs welcoming visitors to the North Pole. To get even more ideas, consult your inner child or have your own children help you choose decorations based on how they envision such an enchanted place.

1.    Candy Cane Stake Lights – $6.40

2.    Christmas Retro Fabric Gnome Novelty Sculpture – $32.00

3.    NOMA 3-Foot Pre-Lit LED Light Up Snowman – $79.99

4.    Holiday Time Be Merry Multicolor Sign – $49.00

Rustic Seasonal Setting

Rustic Christmas porch decor.

Rustic is one of this year’s popular home decor styles and its popularity has overflowed into the holidays. The rustic style incorporates raw elements like wood and stone and balances it with warm, cozy fabrics like flannel. The design has an earthy feel to it and will use more natural tones of tan and green, along with woven textiles. Perfect the look with decorations made from natural woods and pinecones paired with burlap and flannel. Finish it off with presents wrapped in butcher paper. Since some of these decorations are not made to withstand harsh winter conditions, you may want to use them for decorating your porch and bring them in on bad-weather days.

1.    Christmas LED Brown Rattan Cone Trees – $32.00

2.    Northlight 13-Inch White Birch Mark, Twig, Pinecone and Berry Wreath – $17.59

3.    Copper LED Candle Lantern - $9.40

4.    Cozy Teddy Reindeer – $39.50

Glamorous Greetings

Metallic, glam Christmas decorations.

Some may argue that the December holidays are some of the most beautiful of all. With glistening snow, twinkling lights and a color scheme that includes silvers, golds, blues and dazzling whites, it can be hard to disagree. Emphasize the glitz of Christmas with outdoor holiday decor that embraces glamour. Dress traditional Christmas decorations in the aforementioned color scheme, adding touches of glitter and shine. Soften the look without skipping the luxury by adding faux fur, white feather accents, plush teddy bears or fake snow.

1.    3-Piece Pre-Lit Gift Box Assortment Lighted Display – $52.23

2.    30-Inch Flocked Pine Artificial Wreath With Bluer Plate Balls – $49.98

3.    16-Inch Foldable 3D Star - $6.57

4.    Crystal Sleigh Christmas Lawn Art/Figurine - $149.41

Outdoor Decoration Tips

Once you know how you’ll decorate the outside of your home, you’ll have to get to work to bring your ideas to life. And if professional installation isn’t in your budget, you’ll have to channel your inner Griswold and figure it out on your own. Luckily, there are plenty of resources to help, including our outdoor decoration tips below.

Safety First

To prevent injury, fire or damage to your equipment or home, make sure you take the necessary safety precautions when installing your outdoor decorations. Here are a few tips:

  • Use fake candles instead of real ones.
  • Use unbreakable ornaments.
  • If decorations have poisonous plants, like poinsettias, consider replacing them with fake flowers or hang them out of reach of animals or children.
  • Turn everything off before you go to bed or leave for an extended period of time.
  • Use a firm, level ladder for hanging decorations on the roof and in the trees.
  • Plug outdoor decorations into a ground fault circuit interrupter outlet.
  • Wear weather appropriate gear and take breaks inside if you’re decorating in freezing temps.
  • Follow all Christmas light safety tips, such as inspecting bulbs for damage and replacing old lights.

Prepare For Winter Weather

Almost every year, winter weather ends up on Santa’s naughty list, so always prepare for the worst. Stake down all decorations, especially blowups, so they don’t get taken away by stronger gusts of wind. Use waterproof decorations or ones that have been approved for outdoor use. If you want to include non-weatherproof decorations, keep them in a sheltered space, like a covered porch, and bring them inside at night or whenever there’s snow, sleet or rain.

Create A Plan

Before you waste time, money and your sanity, create a plan for your outdoor decorations. Choose a focal point and then use it to map out where you want each item to go. Measure wherever you’ll be hanging lights to make sure you have the right amount and length of strands. Take inventory of what you already have and create a list of what you need (with measurements), so you can be fully equipped and prepared on decorating day. That way, you won’t have to pause right in the middle of it to run out and get more decorations. Nor will you waste money buying things you don’t end up using.

Test Everything Before You Start

Inspect lights for damage and plug them in to make sure they work before you hang them. If you have a mix of different brands or types of bulb, turn all of your lights on together to see if the colors match up. You’d be surprised how many types of white lights there are: soft white, warm white, pure white and cool white, to name a few. And yes, you can tell the difference. Along with that, incandescent bulbs are not as bright or clear (or energy efficient) as LEDs, so the two will look different even if they are the same color. Along with color you’ll also want to make sure the movement of your lights matches, so check to see that you don’t have some lights that twinkle or flash and some that are stagnant.

Along with testing your lights, test your other decorations, too. Make sure your blowup decorations actually inflate and any animated items are moving properly. Inspect everything for damage, missing pieces or anything else that may be a risk of fire or injury.

Remember Outdoor Decoration Essentials

When it comes to decorating for the holiday, there are a few essentials you’ll need to get the job done. Make sure you have the proper tools and hardware to keep everything in place and prevent damage to your property. These may include:

  • Clips and attachment accessories
  • Outdoor extension cords
  • Electrical tape
  • Zip ties
  • Stakes
  • Ladder
  • Utility hook and extension pole
  • Extra Christmas light sockets and bulbs

Check Your Work Along The Way

As you decorate, make sure you pause and take a step back to check the progress of your work as you go. Make sure you like how it’s shaping up and turn the lights on to make sure your installation didn’t knock something lose. It’s much easier to change something you don’t like or find the source of the problem as you go than it is to try to do it after everything is put in place and staked down.

Use A Timer

An outdoor timer will automatically turn your lights on and off at a preset time. Using a timer is convenient because you won’t have to worry about forgetting to tend to your lights. It can also reduce energy costs and help prolong the life of your outdoor decorations.

Timers can help with the safety and security of your home, too. By keeping lights from running too long, they can help prevent fire or other damage to the home. And, since you’ll be able to program your lights to turn on at different times of the day, it will give the impression that someone is home even if you’re not.

Take Down And Store Your Lights

When the holiday is over, don’t wait too long to take down your decorations. Not only will it annoy your neighbors to see Christmas decorations in March, it could also decrease your curb appeal. If you live in an HOA community, you could also get fined. Not only that, the prolonged exposure to outdoor elements could cause more wear and tear on your lights. Once the New Year celebrations are over, you shouldn’t wait any longer to take down your holiday decor.

Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to safely use, maintain and store your decorations. Wrap breakable decorations in bubble wrap or other padded material and wrap your lights around something to keep them from tangling. Store all decorations inside to keep them from getting damaged in the summer heat and place them in a sealed container to keep water and gnawing rodents out.

Outdoor Holiday Decorating Tips For First-Time Homeowners

When you finally have a home to decorate for the holidays, it may be tempting to fill your yard with all kinds of decorations. But it may be more beneficial to start small. You’re still getting to know your neighborhood and home. Take a look to see how the people on your street decorate for the holidays. If you live in an HOA community, see if there are any rules or guidelines for outdoor holiday decorations. Keep it simple this year to test out different focal points and see what you like. You may still be getting used to new utility bills, so you don’t want to overdo it on the electricity this year, either. The best thing to do is to start small and add on to your display each year.

When To Buy Christmas Decorations

When you’re ready to purchase more decorations or invest in an all-out display, go shopping right after the holiday, when you can get items for steep discounts due to changing inventory. If it’s already past that time, wait until Black Friday to score some deals. You won’t save as much as you could right after Christmas, but it will be one of the only times you’ll be able to find new Christmas decorations on sale until after the holiday is over.

If you’re shopping online throughout the year, you may want to avoid June and July as prices may creep back up due to Christmas in July celebrations – when you can bust out your Christmas decorations again.

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    Lauren Nowacki

    Lauren Nowacki is a staff writer specializing in personal finance, homeownership and the mortgage industry. She has a B.A. in Communications and has worked as a writer and editor for various publications in Philadelphia, Chicago and Metro Detroit.