Melody Dudgeon loves Christmas, and anyone driving by her home at 402 S. Cherokee will see the evidence of her passion.
Just after dusk each evening, the exterior of the home comes alive with lights, and features a gingerbread theme, along with a wooden silhouette of the nativity.
Dudgeon said while the decorations take a lot of effort, it’s important to share her enthusiasm of the birth of Christ.
“The main reason behind all the decorations is a celebration of the birth Jesus Christ,” said Dudgeon. “Nothing has impacted our world or our lives in such a way as this. Amid all the decorations and tradition that go along with the festivities of Christmas, we hope people will be reminded there is a reason for this season, and that reason is our salvation.”
Dudgeon and her husband do all the work themselves, which can be time-consuming. For Melody, it’s a labor of love.
“We love the lights, we love the work, we love the people stopping us to let us know how much they appreciate and enjoy coming by and bringing their children and grandchildren,” said Dudgeon. “It’s fun when people start asking us in October if we are going to put out the lights again this year.”
Those who have lived in Tahlequah for a while may have noticed the absence of the Dudgeon’s lights the past few of years.
“We have always decorated together, for 20 years, up until almost four years ago, when my husband’s back was severely injured and surgeries followed,” said Dudgeon. “This prevented us from being able to do what we used to.”
But the couple were back at work this year, and those who love to view lights won’t want to miss the display. Dudgeon said they used to complete the task in a weekend, but it takes a little longer these days.
“The house has always reminded us of a gingerbread house, so we try to go along with that theme when decorating outside,” said Dudgeon. “I usually decide on the ‘theme,’ and my husband helps me with the things too tall for me to reach safely or do alone. He is the one in charge of making it all light up.”
Dudgeon said they used to have help with the display.
“In the past, we had relatives and neighbors and good friends come over and help us with all of this, but people have grown up, have families of their own, and have moved to other places,” she said. “[Now] it’s just the two of us working together to do the best we can. Our three cats and two dogs supervise the best they can.”
Dudgeon invites residents and visitors to pass by the home on the corner of Cherokee and Chickasaw.
“We love people driving by and looking,” she said. “And we hope they are reminded to dwell upon the time when Christ was born, and to allow him to be a part of their lives in all seasons.”
The tradition of lighting up the holidays dates back to 17th century Europe, when German citizens used small candles to light up their Christmas trees.
Kate Kelly, tourism director for the Tahlequah Area Chamber of Commerce, said there are several good spots in town for those looking to view outdoor light displays.
“Tahlequah Main Street Association has decorated Norris Park with lights, and it’s simply gorgeous,” said Kelly. “The city has also put out its lighting display throughout Sequoyah City Park. Other good locations for viewing lights would be the neighborhoods near Greenwood School, and I believe homeowners at Southridge also have some nice displays.”
According to History.com, Edward Johnson was the first person to use electric lights to decorate a Christmas tree in 1882, in New York City. Johnson was one of Thomas Edison’s protégés, and eventually became vice president of Edison’s electric company.
Since Johnson’s time, the tradition of lighting trees, and eventually homes inside and out, has grown exponentially. As the tradition has gained popularity, technology has advanced, producing brighter and more efficient bulbs.
According to Jeffrey Orloff, former About.com guide, compact fluorescent lights – CFLs – and light emitting diodes, or LEDs – can save on energy bills.
“The traditional bulb used for holiday lighting – an incandescent C7 – uses 6 watts,” wrote Orloff. “This is per bulb, remember. When we compare this to the .08 watts used per LED bulb, we can see how much energy is saved.”
Orloff said a typical strand of 50 lights uses 300 watts. At the national average of about 9.81 cents per kilowatt hour, that equals 3 cents per hour, per strand. Running lights five hours a day for the entire season of 30 days, the total cost for one stand of holiday lights is $4.50.
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