A few weeks ago, I was expecting a parcel from Nanoleaf containing its 4D TV backlight, replacing a slightly faulty device I'd been testing earlier this year. So you can imagine my surprise when a parcel arrived, and I opened it up and noticed an unwelcome little Santa hat on the Nanoleaf name.
“Smart Holiday string lights?” I exclaimed, my heart sinking as the full horror and irony of the situation evaporated my enthusiasm for smart light testing.
You see, among family and friends, I’m known as a bona fide Scrooge, a less green Grinch. The very few seasonal greeting cards I receive often feature some variant of “Bah, Humbug!” prominently.
Well, somebody somewhere has a sense of humor, because I ended up testing Nanoleaf’s Smart Holiday String Lights instead of the 4D backlight this month, and the unthinkable happened: I found my Christmas spirit.
Let me explain
I think where it all comes from is that I'm not sure where I 'fit' into Christmas celebrations as an adult.
I enjoyed Christmas as a child, but I’ve seen it come and go many, many times since, much to my chagrin. I don’t think I'm alone in my dislike for late autumn and winter in the UK; it’s cold, wet, and dark, and the flora and fauna either die back or hightail to warmer climes. I started to notice a feeling of melancholy as a teenager once the longest day had passed which I’ve later in life come to understand is likely a bout of seasonal affective disorder (or SAD).
As a parent in my thirties I was an unenthusiastic bystander, but I could at least appreciate the value of Christmas for children. My then-wife would do (and still does for our now near-30-year-old daughter) the full Monty: Santa footsteps in glitter coming from the fireplace, carrots for Rudolph, and a glass of milk for the big guy himself. I, on the other hand, was the parent my daughter came to for the “Does Santa exist?” conversation. Perhaps my own experience of this as a child is the kernel of my lack of Christmas spirit.
Tacky decorations, flashing snowmen, and Christmas jumpers just suck the life out of me, but I don’t want to be that grumpy old man at Christmas, so I do my level best to try, and just ignore the whole thing so that on the day I have something left in the tank.
Now, however, I've found my guiding light thanks to some of the best smart lights.
Hey Siri, it's Christmas!
With the above in mind, we flash back to me opening Nanoleaf’s Holiday lights. I have no tree to decorate, and limited will, but need to test them and write a review. Got it.
I cast my eyes around my office and spot a sufficient victim to decorate – my beloved driving simulator rig. Nanoleaf’s lights come split into two 10m strips to make for easy tree decoration, which it turns out also works well for driving seats. I adorned the steering wheel, handbrake, and pedals with one strip, and the body and the rig with the other, and once I turned the lights on I was surprised by the revelation that not only did the lights look excellent, but that I was enjoying the process of decorating.
A vaguely familiar warm glow resurfaced from my distant past; is this what Christmas feels like? I dismissed the notion, and decided that I must be running a temperature.
Upon further investigation of Nanoleaf’s app I found a good range of color palettes and patterns compatible with the lights, and took great pleasure in exploring each one. Grappling with my anti-Christmas mindset, my mind began to wander – why does my racing chair look so good in Christmas colors, anyway?
My next victim was my gaming computer, which on its own is pretty flashy thanks to its LED-laden RAM, graphics adapter, keyboard, and mouse. I festooned it with the string lights, but its RGB gamer lighting didn’t parry well with the bright and vibrant festive hues of Nanoleaf’s ‘Candy Cane’ scene. Fortunately, given its gamer-centric community, Nanoleaf is one step ahead – there’s a gamer-inspired festive color scheme that looks pretty good.
Deck the halls with boughs of smart lights, fa-la-la-la-la
Still, something within me urged me to take my decorating one step further; “Why don’t I just make the PC lights more festive? Or even, all of my lights?”
The excitement that had been bubbling inside of me at last boiled over, my mind brimming with festive furor. What if I could schedule all of the smart lights in my home to change to a festive color scheme on a given date, or just by using a voice command? After all, who needs to attend a local tree-lighting ceremony when you can simply bellow “Hey Siri, it's Christmas!” at home? Plus, more importantly for me, when it all gets too much I could then scream “Hey Siri, Christmas off” and it’s as though it never happened.
Ever since that epiphany, unique and interesting 'smart Christmas' ideas keep popping into my head, and it’s honestly been a fun and refreshing change. After so many years of trying my best to ignore Christmas, I found myself immersed in the creativity of it all whilst setting up the Nanoleaf smart holiday string lights, and I am genuinely looking forward to more products like this for next year.
Yes, next year. That's right – I'm looking forward to next Christmas, and this one is not even over yet. I think I need to go and have a lie down somewhere.
Granted, you still probably won’t catch me caroling anytime soon, nor am I likely to inflate a giant Saint Nick in my front yard but, through the magic of home automation and customization, I’ve finally found my Christmas spirit – and all I needed were some smart devices to unlock it.
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For 20 years, Les has worked in and around software development, meaning he's a pretty dab hand with a computer. Beyond that, he's known as "Gadget-man" to his friends, constantly in search of the latest and greatest tech to geek out over. In his spare time, you'll find Les in his man cave, also known as "the Lab", whether he's trying out 3D modeling and printing, gaming, practicing software development, or playing with electronics. He's a huge F1 fan, a lover of all things Star Wars and DC, and an avid LEGO builder.