Great lighting brings sparkle to the festive season and, thanks to a combination of creativity and new technology, there is an exciting selection available this year.
Strings of berry lights are the top traditional favourites and for good reason, but the biggest climbers in the “Lit Parade” are bare wire lights
They are so lightweight you can hang them with white tack, plus you can sculpt them into interesting shapes. They look great on the tree, round the window and in clear vases filled with colourful baubles or pine cones. You can buy them at John Lewis and Argos, among other places.
Should you use white or coloured lights? There is an element of snobbery here, as coloured are seen as a bit “Non-U” (non-upper class) by some. That expression was coined by Nancy Mitford in her 1956 book, Noblesse Oblige, and was meant as a joke. I think fun-loving Nancy would have loved coloured lights and am happy to run the risk of appearing “common” as they look sensational on my tree, which is against a plain white wall. If you’re looking for colour, the vintage-style string of battery-powered lights, £19.95, from the www.dotcomgiftshop.com is a nostalgic reminder of Christmases past.
Or check out Habitat’s Minerale, diamond-shaped LED, which are pink, green and purple and are now half price, down to £11 from £22. Habitat has reduced much of its festive stock, so it’s worth checking out www.habitat.co.uk.
For something a little classier, look for Cable and Cotton lights. You buy a cable and add the light balls to it, in whatever shade you fancy. A string of 20 costs £22.95.
Whichever lights you buy, try to ensure they are LED. Light emitting diodes are much cheaper to run than traditional fairy lights, using up to 90 per cent less energy.
A set of 200 traditional lights can cost £2.40 per day if left on for ten hours, whereas a set of 200 LED lights will cost about 20p a day. It can pay to put your lights on a timer.
According to the Energy Saving Trust, if all UK homes swapped one string of standard fairy lights for LED lights during the 12 days of Christmas, it would save nearly £9.7m.
Another bonus is that they do not have a filament that can burn out rendering the whole set redundant while you hunt around for the spare bulb. They are also long-lasting, have no glass parts and are cool to the touch.
Candlelight uses no electricity and one of the safest ways of having a flickering flame is in a tealight holder. My best buy this year is from The Home store at Salts Mill. It cost £1.85 and the deer and snowy woodland look like a little bit of Narnia when you light the candle inside.
Solar-powered LED lights also cost nothing to run and there is no need to connect to the mains, which reduces risk. Wilko has a set of 200 white solar lights for £20.
When it’s time to take the trimmings down, remember that fairy lights aren’t just for Christmas. You can use them all year round to add a cosy glow or brighten dark corners.
The free-standing Joy light, £49.50, from Marks & Spencer is perfect for all seasons, as is the Broadway collection from Made.com at Redbrick Mill, Batley. It includes the best-selling star table lamp, £99, and its big sister, the floor lamp, £130.