Festive decorating on steroids: ‘The Great Christmas Light Fight’

23 December 2016 - 02:00 By Rebecca Davis
This home in Alexandria, Virginia, in the USA was named one of ten best decorated homes in the state by popular vote. (January 2 2016.)
This home in Alexandria, Virginia, in the USA was named one of ten best decorated homes in the state by popular vote. (January 2 2016.)
Image: iStock

Rebecca Davis lets loose her inner grinch on M-Net’s show ‘The Great Christmas Light Fight’

What is the true meaning of Christmas? If your answer is anything other than: "To spend an obscene amount of time and money outfitting your house with enough bright lights to send Santa's reindeer into an epileptic coma," you may be doing it wrong.

At least, that's the message I'm getting from The Great Christmas Light Fight, the festive programming with which M-Net is ushering in another December 25.


It's fun to imagine the brainstorming session at which American network ABC came up with the concept for this reality show. "We need some kind of competition which senselessly pits families against each other, and likely plunges them into inescapable debt, while still retaining some veneer of festive spirit ... Ah, got it!"

In The Great Christmas Light Fight, as you may have gathered, private American homes compete to erect the kind of illuminated displays which make the average South African city's Christmas lights look like a few candles in a cave.

In the season broadcast by M-Net, one Louisiana man sets up sweeping searchlights on his roof which beam 15 miles into the sky. If I was an air traffic controller in New Orleans, I'd be on strike.

The gentleman in question, Ray, seemed like he might be in the grip of some pathological disorder. He had covered 2.5 acres of land with Christmas lights, and press-ganged hapless townsfolk into coming to watch him switch on. Some of the lights spelled out "God Bless America".

This season was filmed a few years back, but it was hard to avoid the impression that Ray would have cast a passionate vote for Donald Trump in 2016. "It means peace," he explained. "That we have people willing to fight and die for our country." That's not my idea of peace, but I'm not about to argue with Ray.

The contestants are appraised on three aspects: use of lights, overall design and Christmas spirit. Most of their displays require a fuse box the size of Eskom HQ. They are judged by permatanned "celebrity decorator" Michael Moloney, who is given to exclamations like: "You guys are out of Christmas control!"

WATCH The Simpson family light show reveal on The Great Christmas Light Fight


It's hard to disagree. Moloney's sidekick is fellow celebrity decorator Sabrina Soto, who is similarly tasked with travelling around the country gurning at neon Santas. "So many lights," Sabrina repeated hopelessly in the first episode.

One man featured has invested in two million lights with which to adorn his home. The prize is $50,000. I'm just not convinced the maths adds up. This may be the Grinch in me talking, but if I lived opposite one of these homes, I'd be erecting blackout curtains for any chance of a good Christmas sleep.

• Catch the first episode of 'The Great Christmas Light Fight' on December 23 on M-Net at 17:00