When it comes to holidays, the last thing many of us want to think about is rules – especially when they are in relation to “decking the halls”. But, without some holiday guidelines in place, your community may turn into something akin to Clark Griswold's house meets The Grinch's lair on Mount Crumpit. And no one wants that (for long, anyway). It isn't all about counting the individual lights on your neighbor's house, though. There are plenty of ways to bring some seasonal joy to your community that will encourage togetherness and allow everyone to have some much-needed fun.
Here are some things to keep in mind to help ensure a successful holiday season for your community.
Let's get this one out of the way first. Of course, you and your fellow board members don't want to put a damper on anyone's holiday spirit. But, without some limitations on holiday décor, your neighborhood may turn into a free-for-all of inflatables, twinkle lights, and Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas is You" on repeat for all to hear.
So, how do you prevent such a tragedy? Having a clear set of rules pertaining to holiday décor will help ensure harmony is maintained in your community and that no one is leaving their holiday lights up until Memorial Day.
Some best practices for making, enforcing, and communicating rules to members include:
- Make sure whatever decorating policies you're considering align with your governing documents. If they don't, you can't enforce them. If you're not sure about this, contact your community manager or attorney.
- Be specific. If you're going to include time limits (e.g., "Lights can't be displayed before X date and must be taken down by Z date"), be very clear and stick to those limits. If you're choosing to limit types and sizes of decorations, colors of lights, where things can be displayed, etc., you must be very specific about those things as well, or else they'll be very hard to enforce should someone be found in violation.
- Be sure to communicate your community's policies to residents and send plenty of reminders as the season approaches. People are very busy during the holidays; you can't expect them to remember every provision of the holiday décor policy that they've had no reason to review since last year.
- Be reasonable – just because you hate multi-colored Christmas lights doesn't mean they should be banned from the community.
Now, on to the fun stuff! The holiday season is an excellent time for community members to get to know each other, whether through a cookie exchange, decorating contest, or volunteer opportunities.
It's worth noting that Covid is still a very real presence and must be considered when having in-person events. Always be sure to follow your state and local guidelines as well as the most up-to-date CDC guidance. And, keep in mind, people will have different levels of comfort with in-person events. But, thankfully, we've all become quite familiar (and creative) when it comes to virtual meetings and gatherings, so there are always ways to enjoy some holiday fun remotely.
Here are just a few things your community may consider during the holidays to bring everyone together, whether in-person or virtually.
- If your community's common areas will be decorated, hold an event allowing members to put up decorations together. Not only will this allow members to get better acquainted, but it gives them a chance to display their creativity and show off their community's beautiful decorations when finished. Want to get competitive? If your community has large common areas or several different common areas, turn it into a decorating contest and give out prizes! Plus, outdoor activities are a great option during Covid!
- Organize some holiday events. If you have a clubhouse, show some holiday movies throughout the season – this would be perfect for adults and children. Have a sweet tooth? A cookie or dessert exchange is sure to put a smile on everyone's face. Did you really miss showing off that hideous holiday sweater last year? Have a tacky sweater party – those are always sure to bring a good laugh or two.
- Volunteer or gather donations for a local charity. Most of us have a few things in our closets or pantries that we probably aren't ever going to use. Do some research on charities in your area and pick one your community would like to assist. Things like nonperishable food items, coats, and hygiene items are always needed. Get a few volunteers together to be responsible for collecting these items, set a date by which they need to be turned in, and encourage members to participate if they're able (and don't forget to set the example as a board member!). The joy of giving during the holidays is unmatched and will surely give your members a sense of accomplishment knowing that they banded together to assist those in their area.
There are, of course, dozens of other ways to enjoy the holidays, but these are a few good places to get started. Remember to be reasonable and specific with any holiday guidelines, communicate them clearly to your members, and, of course, try to plan some fun activities throughout the season. Happy Holidays!