I live in a very small town, a village really, which retains that character even though it is in close proximity to Atlanta. This is a close-knit community and people here often go all out for holidays. For example, my household’s contribution to Halloween was a giant spider on the house.
Naturally, this town is lit up for the winter holidays* like a teeny, tiny Las Vegas. I decided I wanted to join in, but while our tree is straightforwardly syncretic, and I could have just strung up some lights, I thought I’d go for something more…Pagany. To be specific, I decided what we needed was a large sun made of lights to hang on the back of the house, big enough so it will reflect in the lake and can be seen from the other shore. (The lake isn’t all that big, in fact “lake” is more of an honorific than an accurate description). Strangely, no one had any ready-made light-up suns for sale. They had reindeer, snowmen, and sleighs galore (none of which are common to Georgia), but no sun (which IS). You’d think they didn’t realize this is all about the winter solstice when you get down to it.
Even more surprising to me, when I went looking for directions on how to make my own, they didn’t seem to exist. Surely, I thought, I am not the first Pagan to want to let the whole neighborhood know that WE know the REAL reason for the season** in this house, via electric light display. Surely, someone has trod this path before me.
Be that as it may, I could not find any directions for how to make an electric Yule display anywhere. This did not deter me. I wrought, and was victorious, and am willing to share my knowledge with you, my gentle and discerning readers.
For this purpose, you will need:
A hula hoop (I used a small one, 27″ in diameter)
Eight wire coat hangers
Rope lights (two 18′ strings were just about right for one this size; if you use a bigger hoop, you will need more).
First straighten out the coat hangers and shape them into triangle-ish shapes for the rays. You can attach them loosely to the hoop by twisting the ends around it and tightening with pliers, but the florists wire will help you secure them so they won’t slide. If you’re making a bigger sun, consider using something stronger to make a cross in the middle; this will allow you to anchor a spiral with the extra footage of lights.
Here’s how it looks at that stage:
Note that the “rays” are attached in opposing pairs; it’s easier to keep them more or less even if you start with one, then another on the opposite side, then the next two cross-ways so you have a solar cross going. Then put in the cross-quarters
The next step is to attach the rope lights. Fastening them with zip-ties is secure and doesn’t block the light too much. I went around the circle first, then the rays; I used one zip-tie on each side of each ray, one at the tip, and then two on each side close to the tip to encourage it to look more like a ray of the sun and less like a flower petal.
At that point, you’re done, except for clipping the tail ends of the zip-ties. Here’s a shot of the almost-finished product, held by my lovely assistant:
I used white lights because I couldn’t find any yellow ones. Since like most people I have a closet full of wire coat hangers that I swear are multiplying in there when I’m not looking, the whole thing including the hula hoop, florists wire, and lights, cost about $20 and only took an hour or two to make; if I hadn’t been in such a hurry (as I had this inspiration yesterday after the stores closed and completed the project today) I might have ordered yellow lights and paid less, or I might have decided to get very, very fancy with running lights and a spiral and who knows what. The Lovely Assistant thinks it needs to be bigger (he is also the reason our spider wound up 40′ across rather than 25), but the size we made was relatively easy to handle and fit through the window in order to hang it without ladders or rooftop shenanigans, both of which were part of the spider experience. Considering he dropped a roll of duct tape on me the last time*** FROM THE ROOF, I felt caution was justified.
I don’t care that it’s slightly lop-sided. It looks pretty from across the lake (I walked over there to see), and much like the giant spider, it fills me with glee. That’s what counts, yes? May your Solstice be blessed and full of joy, wherever you may find it.
*The cantor for a local synagogue lives around the corner, and her house is strung with blue and white lights, so “winter holidays” is a technically accurate as well as deliberately inclusive term. We are ecumenically garish around here.
***Of course it was an accident. And yet, I feel somehow the knowledge that gravity continues to work is not to be taken lightly, so to speak.