Decorations: Impact and Awareness 

Jack Horton, Staff Writer

Often, people write off winter as simply being a time of lights, snow, and Christmas. However, winter is a critical season for many holidays practiced by different cultures. Additionally, winter is also a season where celebrations and decorations are more important than ever. This is due to both trying to put on a friendly appearance for others as well as the increased level of depression from those affected with Seasonal Depressive Disorder also known in short as SAD or known as Seasonal Depression. 

According to Mayo Clinic “In most cases, SAD symptoms appear during late fall or early winter and go away during the sunnier days of spring and summer.” Mayo Clinic says that seasonal affective disorder leads to individuals “losing interest in activities, having low energy, and feeling sluggish.” It may seem unclear as to whether holiday cheer and decorating would improve someone’s mood; however, Mayo Clinic does convey that “Treatment for SAD may include light therapy (phototherapy), psychotherapy, and medication.” Obviously, if someone is experiencing SAD then they should seek assistance with their condition but one major aspect of treating SAD is lights and correcting negative behavior. Additionally, studies have shown that decorating plays an important social role as well. According to the Journal of Environmental Psychology who ran an article describing a study upon the social perception for those who decorated for Christmas, “The results support the idea that residents can use their home’s exterior to communicate attachment and possibly to integrate themselves into a neighborhood’s social activities.” In other words, decorations indicate agreeableness as well as one’s willingness to be involved in social events. However, this study contains a missing element regarding those who celebrate and decorate for other holidays besides Christmas. There are many other festivities which one could learn more about and decorate for.  

Hanukkah is a holiday celebrating the Jewish Maccabee fighters who were fighting for independence from Greece. The Maccabees regained control of a major Jewish Temple and held a celebration where they lit candles, which managed to last for eight days despite the oil used to light the candles being only supposed to last for one day. Another version of this tale involves a messenger sent to secure additional oil taking eight days to complete his mission and the oil only lasting for one day. This is where the Menorah originates from as the candles are lit in symbolic celebration and remembrance of that event. However, there is more to decorate with than just the Menorah. One of the principal concepts according to an article from is called “pirsumei nisa, publicizing the Hanukkah miracle.” This means that a major component of celebrating Hanukkah is making others aware of the miracle and of the holiday. states that some methods of decorating include “special decor, outdoor lights, festive blow-up fixtures…[or a]…huge, public menorah.” An article from offers some options for decorating and customization involving “candles [for both the Menorah as well as separate]…drip tray[s]…banners…holiday themed window stickers…blue and white lights.” also mentions how you can use a “Hanukkah runner across the middle of the table,” and says that “If you can’t find [decorations] specific to the holiday, look for something in blue and silver or blue and white.” 

Kwanzaa is another holiday which memorializes the struggles of African American justice advocates who protested for racial equality. Kwanzaa was meant to consolidate African traditions, establish African unity, and revive pride for African culture. According to National Geographic, “Kwanzaa derived from the word “first” in Swahili [taking] inspiration from the start of the harvest season in Africa.” Kwanzaa features seven principles which according to the Smithsonian are “Umoja (Unity)… Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)…Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)…Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)…Nia (Purpose)…Kuumba (Creativity) … Imani (Faith)” These seven principles of Kwanzaa are represented by the Kinara, which feature seven candles, one for each of the principles. The Kinara also features the Pan African colors of red, green, and black. Additionally National Geographic mentions “a table with a straw mat that symbolizes the traditions at the heart of the holiday’s foundation. Upon that mat, [are placed] meaningful items, including assorted fruits and vegetables…” Overall, to decorate for Kwanzaa, the colors of green, red, and black are used with a few other colors like yellow sometimes included.  

Of course, there is more to decorations than just the act of decorating and researching various symbolic reasons behind them. One can also partake in looking at decorations, for example in light shows. WildLanterns at Woodland Park Zoo is an example of a close by area where one can get donuts, hot chocolate, look at animals made of lights, see Chinese folk dances, and hear talks about various animals. Parent Map places the cost at “$29.95 to $34.95 for adults and teens” and says it “runs through January 22, 2023.” However, the show is closed on select days and tickets should be booked in advance. Garden d’Lights at Bellevue Botanical Garden is another close by example of an impressive lights display with plants and lights being intertwined into impressive structures. Meadows, ravines, lush lands, all including native growth are to be seen at the Garden. Parent Map places the cost at “$8…premium parking is available for $5 per car” which makes the Garden a cheaper alternative to dip one’s toes into high end light shows. Garden’s time runs from according to Parent Map, “Nov. 26–Dec. 31, 2022; 4:30–9 p.m., except Sunday, Dec. 25.” If one wants to go farther out, they can see light shows in the Zoolights at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium which features trees made of lights, polar bears made of light, Mount Rainier lights, seahawk colored tree lights, and many more. According to Parent Map the light show costs “$12…Monday–Thursday, and $16 Friday–Sunday.” The hours according to Parent Map, are “Nov. 25, 2022, [runing] through Jan. 2, 2023. It’s open nightly except Saturday–Sunday, Dec. 24–25. Hours are 4:30–10 p.m.” A few warnings about Zoolights at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium involve the issues of the animals being asleep at night time and the goat event promised being actually a private event which runs quite pricy. This goat event involves a goat being pet and fed by participants. However, the light show is beautiful. A lot of these light shows can be surveyed online if you want to get a rudimetary idea of what it would be like. However, there is an extreme novelty in seeing the lights in person with depth and them being unfiltered by camera edits and lighting not being captured. I would recommend if one does not go to these paid light shows that they at least go to a local neighborhood light show or drive around at night looking at lights.  

Overall, there are many ways to decorate as well as look at decorations for the holidays. Nevertheless, there are some special traditions regarding activities one does while decorating. An anonymous freshman says that “when decorating, [her family] often turn on some Christmas music and make some tea or hot chocolate to drink while hanging them up.” Senior Brendan Sourwine, however, states that his family when decorating plays “no music. [Instead, they] just put them up in the freezing temperatures.” Additionally, as many decorate their homes, a few students also provided ideas for how we could decorate the school. Another anonymous freshman mentions that “School decorations are fun and help set a nice mood [mentioning examples of] garlands or posters, something simple.” Sourwine suggests “Christmas lights surrounding a banner” as an idea for school decorations. The idea of decorating the school holds potential to liven up to the school spirit and to help with the gloomy wintertime of the year for both the present and future school years. However, decorating the school needs to be handled with care so as to be inclusive rather than alienating those who may feel domineered in a Christmas centric winter celebration.