Mike Koozmin/The SF ExaminerFeeling the season: Saskia and Richard Drysdale purchase a tree at the Delancey Street lot in San Francisco. Saskia Drysdsale had lights picked out for the tree.

Holiday lights make San Francisco spirits bright

It takes Joffer Palmares three days to decorate his Christmas tree.

The 38-year-old San Francisco resident starts with lights — all 3,000 of them, which will take hours to hang — then moves on to decorations and finally completes the work with fresh garlands flown in from Bali.

Oh, and the lights used must be white.

“It makes the tree more colorful when you mix it with lots of ornaments,” Palmares said.

The more lights, the better, is the way Palmares operates around the holidays, according to his partner, Kurt Silver.

“It’s very serious business,” Silver said.

Silver doesn’t question Palmares’ decoration choices, but a certain debate goes on in households around the country this time of year: white or multicolored lights, or something else?

For Lily Tung Crystal, she sticks with white lights that don’t sparkle in order to show off her 40-year-old ornaments.

“We don’t want it to be too gaudy,” she said of using multicolored lights. “I like the lights to be uniform.”

Even San Francisco’s public holiday trees differ in their light displays. Macy’s tree, which stands 80 feet tall in Union Square, features thousands of white lights for a special effect.

“The white produce a brighter glow overall,” said Larry Hashbarger, director of special productions for Macy’s. “There are 33,000 lights … and the white lights set off the red topper nicely.”

For the Recreation and Park Department, which lights the 131-year-old Monterey cypress each year in Golden Gate Park, the motif is all about the multicolored strands. According to department spokesman Elton Pon, the use of color comes from tradition.

“It’s how we’ve always done it,” he said.

Tradition is what prompted Saskia Drysdale, 48, of San Francisco to go with lights in the shape of candles that clamp onto branches.

“It reminds me of when I was a child and we used to light real candles on the tree,” she said. “It was usually a onetime thing on Christmas; it was a game of chance.”

akoskey@sfxaminer.com

 

MY STORY

Which do you prefer, multicolored or white lights?

  • “Colored lights. Our mom always decorated with colored lights, so we thought we might as well go with tradition.”
    — Margaret Armstrong, 23, Germany
  • “I always did colored, or multicolored, that don’t blink. I don’t want it to look cheesy or tacky.”
    — Judy Baldwin, 55, Vacaville
  • “I use colored — it’s pretty much how they did it in the old days.”
    — Harriet Mosely, 68, Winters
  • “It’s a spur-of-the-moment decision. I see what’s out there and what department stores have decorated. I like the different color schemes.”
    — Lawrence Basilio, 35, San Jose, who uses a different color every year

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