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Laser Lights: Modern Convenience Clashes With Holiday Tradition

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And in this season, we also have the latest on Christmas lights.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Light up your home with the classic green Star Shower laser light today for just $39.99.

INSKEEP: Here's what's new. Homeowners are relying on lasers as well as traditional lights to do the decorating. NPR's Stephan Bisaha had a look.

STEPHAN BISAHA, BYLINE: The lights are everywhere, flashing and shifting with music across 23,000 bulbs. The lights dance through snowmen, stars, reindeer, all tied together by a mile of extension cords. Mark DeSomma takes decorating his home in Fairlawn, N.J., seriously. He first caught the Christmas bug from his grandmother, but things really took off when he watched his 2-year-old daughter stare up at their Christmas lights.

MARK DESOMMA: And I can just remember her with her head back, looking up. And just, like, you could see the lights shining off of her face, and she was just, like, in awe. And from that point, it seems like it just manifested and grew. And she just - I think she loves it.

BISAHA: But a lot of homeowners this year are ditching their strings of lights. Instead, they're buying projectors that send hundreds of red and green lasers dancing across the outside of their homes. So what does Mark's now 9-year-old daughter Maya think about the trend?

MAYA: I don't know, but my cousin calls them lazy lights.

A J KHUBANI: Some people might call that lazy, but - which means it's fast and easy to get it done.

BISAHA: AJ Khubani's the CEO of Telebrand, located about 20 minutes west of the DeSommas' house. The company sells the Star Shower, which helped popularize the laser decoration trend. Khubani still remembers putting up Christmas lights as a teenager.

KHUBANI: And it never looked great, actually. It was a lot of hard work with a staple gun and a ladder, usually freezing cold outside. And I thought it was pretty dangerous.

BISAHA: And he was right. Fifteen-thousand people went to the emergency room last year after being injured while setting up holiday decorations, according to federal government data. A good chunk of those were from falls. The Star Shower and similar projectors avoid all that. Just stick it in the ground, plug in and point.

KHUBANI: The Star Shower makes this much easier, and it looks great.

BISAHA: But the dozen or so cars parked in front of the DeSommas' house in Fairlawn are there for more than a simple three-step process. Amy Vertucci is enjoying the display with her husband and 2-year-old daughter. The easy setup for the Star Shower and other projectors doesn't quite sit right with Vertucci.

AMY VERTUCCI: I like them, but it's - you know, it seems kind of like the cheap way out (laughter). I want to see you out there like Clark Griswold, stapling them to the roof, like, really working for it.

BISAHA: Mark DeSomma's done his share of working and suffering for his lights, but he's had a few moments of weakness.

DESOMMA: You know, when it's 40 degrees and it's misting out and your hands are numb and you're like, why? Why am I doing this every year?

BISAHA: In part, he likes the attention. He loves the line of cars, the thank-you letters wedged into his front door and the kids dancing underneath the Christmas lights. Stephan Bisaha, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.