Holiday Decorating

Holiday Decorating at RING  —  Sunday, December – DTBD


Every year starting in the mists of time (probably after WWII), the Lt. William Tighe Triangle at Dyckman and Broadway was the location for a large Christmas tree at holiday time. The Parks department hauled it in, used 3 trucks, including a cherry picker, to put it up and vertically throw garland on it. The cost, as of 1990 or so, was $4100 per year. In 1990 for $225 the RING garden bought its dwarf blue Hoopsi spruce tree, a 6 or 7-footer destined to top-out at 20 feet, and planted it in the new raised bed, known as the RING Triangle garden. As of 2007 the tree has grown to 15 feet or so and takes 8 or 9 strings of lights.

Getting Started

Electricity. The Parks dept. taps the light pole nearest the Point of the garden (Broadway end) and throws a line into our spruce tree so that we can operate the tree lights and the Menorah. A request for the electrical line has been usually been made to Parks annually in late November. In recent years they want to know when our holiday event will be.

Spruce Tree Lights:

A week in advance of the Holiday event:

  • Haul out the Xmas box (purple) – kept on floor of main shed, rear left corner.
  • Inside Xmas box find (1) Timer (green), (2) Splitter cubes (orange), (3) 2 orange extension cords, (4) Box of fuses, (5) boxes of bulbs, (6) 2-pks of menorah bulbs.
  • Put the Timer into the ground on the south side of the tree. One plug from the Parks dept. line goes to this, and the other to the Menorah. Since strings more than 2 or 3 long increases the likelihood of blowing a fuse, we use orange splitter cubes and extension cords.
  • Replacing bulbs Carefully remove each string of lights from plastic bags, hook up with electricity and test for burned out bulbs. In 2007 there were 45 burned out bulbs at the outset, but half had been put back into the cardboard boxes along with new bulbs, a mistake which makes it take twice as long to replace bulbs. First plug each string into the electrical source. Note the bulbs that aren’t lit.
  • Twist those bulbs that aren’t lit. Many just aren’t screwed in all the way, or maybe the contacts need a little attention.
  • Dispose of burned out bulbs right away. Do not leave them in boxes with new bulbs or on the ground.
  • X sockets / bulbs – Some sockets are bad. Since it’s not a good idea to leave a socket empty (weather can cause a short), we put a burned out bulb into bad sockets and mark the bad bulb/socket with a black X using a magic marker. This protects the string and saves time.
  • Purchase bulbs – make sure we have enough for the season (say 100). Christmas bulbs are bought in bulk (case of 25 or so) on the internet since it costs a fraction of buying them in packages of 4 (and those are harder and harder to find).

The art of tree decorating (at least a day before the event)

Start at the top. Find someone who is confident at the top of our 8-foot ladder. The lasso technique works best now, with the tree as tall as it is. Gently pitch lights towards the top of the tree. If at first you don’t succeed, withdraw the lights gently and try again. It is easier to zig zag the strings rather than take a long string and go round and round the tree. Having more than 2 or 3 strings patched end on end on one line increases the likelihood of blowing a fuse. Fuses are in the electrical plug of each string and can be replaced when blown. If, at any point, you notice that a string of lights is not lit, it could be a blown fuse (or it could be that the plug fell out from the splitter or another string). Storms and wind can cause this. If it is a blown fuse, we keep fuses in a marked container and it is easy to pull back the fuse cover, exposing one or two fuses. Pry it/them out with your fingernail or knife. (All expenditures for fuses will be reimbursed.) During the lighting season, if you see burned out bulbs, feel encouraged to go in and replace them. The purple Xmas box should remain in the vicinity with bulk boxes of replacement bulbs kept inside.

Holiday Event and planning

A few weeks in advance, pick a date for decorating, and another, usually during Hanukah, for tree lighting / menorah lighting / song singing and food.

  • Solicit volunteers to help with these and publicity.
  • Line up refreshments. The restaurants and deli might contribute free hot chocolate, hot cider, cookies, cake etc..
  • Design and execute publicity plan (e.g., Manhattan Times, CB12, email publicity list, email to members, RING News, flyers)
  • Invitations (to politicians, RING members)
  • Song sheets (say 15 or 20 sets – include Christmas, Winter, and Hanukah songs)


In advance, haul out the menorah – kept on floor of the shed addition (left side of shed as you see it from the path), located inside on the right side pushed towards rear. Be careful not to hit the bulbs or the “candles” since they are fragile. The ‘feet’ of the menorah are also fragile.

Menorah prep: Plug in the menorah to test bulbs and sockets. If a socket is burned out or defective, check with Arthur right away (and cross your fingers). If the menorah wood needs polyurethane, contact Juan Leal. Make sure that we have at least 8 bulbs (same dark amber color) to cover the holiday. Menorah bulbs are available in some grocery and hardware stores or Home Depot.

Menorah placement: We place the menorah next to the Tree facing the Point. The feet of the menorah should be turned out (90 degrees) and bricks put onto them to stabilize the menorah against the wind.

Make arrangements for each bulb to be turned at sunset.

When Hanukah is over, carefully return menorah to the shed addition.

Christmas lights maintenance

Gently remove each string of lights and put each one into a separate plastic bag, gently putting them into the purple box. If the spare bulb or fuse supply is low, make a note to order more. Return box to its spot in the shed.