The holiday light display outside the Menashe family’s home in West Seattle began small, with a simple manger scene, borrowed from a relative.
Now, 28 years later, the original figurines from that manger scene still remain as part of the family’s annual holiday light spectacular on Beach Drive, which has grown to encompass about 340,000 lights and an enormous cast of characters. The home, which was featured last Christmas on ABC’s “The Great Christmas Light Fight,” has been part of a holiday pilgrimage for untold numbers of spectators over the years.
According to homeowner Jack Menashe, much of the credit for the spectacle belongs to his son Josh Menashe, along with a brigade of professionals — an electrician, a plumber, contractors, boom operators and others — who swarm the property for about a week in late November, working 10 to 12 hours a day, to make the holiday magic happen.
“We’re long past the trial-and-error stage,” says Jack Menashe, a West Seattle jeweler for more than 45 years. “We do everything professionally, and by the book.”
While Menashe’s power bill during the show runs about 3½ times the usual, he says he does not solicit donations, because the lights are an expression of his spirit and his faith.
“The day I’ve got to put a donation box out there is the day I retire this thing,” he says.
Since Menashe considers his son Josh the “heart and soul” and the “architect” behind the display, we turned to Josh Menashe for his top tips on outdoor holiday decorating.
1. Make sure you have adequate power.
To light up the night the way they wanted to, the Menashes needed to add two breaker boxes, tripling the amperage of their residential electrical service. While such measures likely aren’t necessary for the typical residential display, Menashe recommends that beginners anchor their power sources by using vertical outdoor power strips that stake into the soil, with grounded, three-prong outlets. Then, find creative ways to conceal the cords.
“For the layman who doesn’t have those outlet boxes, I recommend getting those,” he says. “We didn’t know about these things in the first years, either. We had to learn it.”
2. Tie it all together.
For safety and security, Menashe reminds decorators to use copious quantities of zip ties, rope, wires and gutter clips — whatever it takes to withstand the Pacific Northwest’s blustery winters. At the Menashe display, the enormous star that shines 65 feet above the yard is secured in multiple places.
3. Have a design plan.
Menashe says he sketches out a rough diagram on paper for his father’s display every year, and sticks to the plan.
“You’ve got to have a layout and a theme, even if you’re doing something small,” he says.
4. Choose your colors.
While the family display employed multicolored lights in its formative years, they now use a very deliberate color scheme to create maximum wow factor.
“We used to do multicolored lights, but what we’ve done in our yard is we’ve gone to specific colors,” he says. The Menashes predominantly use just green, white and red. “It’s not random at all.”
5. Buy lights in bulk.
“Go and buy a thousand lights. That seems like a lot, but it’s only 10 strands of 100,” he says. It’s hard to make an impact with two strands. “Just buy a thousand.”
6. Decorate from the ground up.
While logistics and the scale of the family’s display require decorators to start at the top and work their way down, Menashe recommends the opposite approach for the casual decorator: Start at the bottom and work your way up.
“I always say that it kind of starts with the rope lighting, the path lights, then it goes into the bushes and then into your trees,” he says.
7. Take chances.
“Nothing’s ever right or wrong with decorating outside in your yard,” he says. “It all looks good at night when it’s dark. You want to do things clean and nice in proportion and maximize your layout right, but you just have to do it as you go. You’ve gotta start somewhere.”