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Light Research @ MMU

Christmas Lights

There seemed to be fewer Christmas lights adorning the houses of Manchester this year. Perhaps this is due to austerity or perhaps they are becoming less fashionable.


In the UK, the spectacular array of these gaudy illuminations, typically red, gold and green, often seemingly thrown up in an ad hoc fashion, are strongly associated with expressions of class and taste, though this may be different in other parts of the world. Finding these displays jolly and seasonal, we researched what motivated people in Manchester and Sheffield to put them up each year. Before carrying out these interviews though, we were struck by the vicious criticisms to which they were subject on websites, and in articles and letters in national and local newspapers.

Critics point to what they regard as the selfish disregard for neighbours, the lack of environmental awareness, and above all, their bad taste. These supposed failings were often allied to assumptions about other negative characteristics, including laziness, scrounging benefit, and excessive breeding, and often included references to that most recent signifier of working class horror, the ‘chav’. Yet following our interviews with the displayers, it was clear that they are not concerned with the display of ‘good taste’ but the production of a festive atmosphere for the neighbourhood. Generously, they want to promote communal and family conviviality, and seasonal good cheer. At many displays, there are invitations to contribute to charitable causes. For us, the vitriol expressed by the critics cannot recognise how such forms of lighting can create shared enjoyment and a sense of place. Sadly, an obsession with what constitutes ‘good taste’ prevents them seeing the brightness, colour, silliness and fun that such displays bring.

February 11th, 2013 - 13:57pm

2 Responses to “Christmas Lights”

  1. Steve Millington Says:

    Great to see the blog running

  2. Richard Scriven Says:

    There were also noticeably fewer Christmas lights in Cork, Ireland last Christmas. I toured the city just before Christmas to observe and photograph for a blog post on the topic and was struck by the reduced number of decorated houses. The post can be found here:

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