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We may not be able to do much about the dark days of winter, but we can try to brighten our environment during this rather bleak time of year.

As my husband and I were leaving the recent Dish & Design event at Great Lakes Culinary Center in Southfield, it felt like it had to be at least 11  at night because it was pitch black outside. We were both surprised that it was in fact much earlier than it seemed to be.  

So, when our next-door neighbor asked if she and her husband could put a giant light-up Santa and reindeer in between our condos, I was happy to oblige. Besides adding some much-needed holiday cheer, I knew the distinctive decoration would make my daughter’s day since she says we’re pathetic over here with the lack of outdoor ornamentation.

The colorful characters have already brought joy to our community as I noticed another neighbor take a young child to see the seasonal decor up close and personal.

Across the street, another festive condo that always gets gussied up for the occasion shimmers in a sea of blue and white lights this time around for a winter wonderland that casts a lovely glow for all to see.

When my daughter was little, she would ask if we could drive around the neighborhood to see the assortment of holiday decor. Among my personal favorites are the orb lights that hang from branches, making the trees look less bare when the darkness comes early.

Even the standard seasonal adornments become more noticeable at night when accompanied by solar lights that line a walkway. In our neighborhood, an array of seasonal wreaths and red bows come to life after dark when displayed on the outdoor fixtures that flank the garages in our condos.

A whirligig nutcracker I got recently that I could watch all day long fades away at night without some spotlights to give him the attention he deserves. I’m ready to step up my game and get some.

One of the many benefits of outdoor decorations is that you don’t have to know who lives there or be invited inside to enjoy them. As I drive around at night during this time of year, I am grateful for the homeowners who live on the main roads that really go all out.

Even the neighborhood across our pond shines at night with colorful decorations. A tree that we can see from our home resembles a palm tree from a distance when covered in white lights.

When I walk the dog, I admire a nearby neighbor’s snowman and candy cane theme that strikes a cheerful note amid the mini Christmas trees with lights on her front porch.

All these outdoor features make me want to keep the momentum going inside to battle the darkness that comes too early at this time of year. Adding some extra lamps and string lights should make the situation more bearable.

So, as my poor sunglasses get cold and lonely in the car, I’ll try to brighten my spirits and my surroundings with all the illumination that comes from artificial light.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at jeaninematlow@earthlink.net.

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