AARP Eye Center
Christmastime 2021 really is the season to be jolly.
Thankfully, families are able to spend time together over the holidays this year and we'll be drinking fewer eggnog toasts during Zoom calls. As you’re entertaining guests to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or even Festivus — for any Seinfeld fans out there — here's some technology that can help you get the most out of your home decor.
From ambience created with programmable lights to calling Old St. Nick over smart speakers, from a crackling — yet virtual — fireplace on your big-screen TV to belting out holiday tunes over karaoke, the latest gadgets and gear can dress up your home with yuletide spirit and add some extra fun for you and your guests.
AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal
Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP The Magazine.
Let there be light
If you own an Alexa-, Google- or Siri-enabled smart speaker (as low as $20 this time of year) or smart display (usually starting at $79), you’ve likely used it to control devices around your home, like thermostats. You could do the same with your Christmas lights.
You can say things like, “Alexa, set a timer for the outside lights” or “OK, Google, turn on the Christmas tree lights and set the colors to red and green.” And just like that, you can brighten your space and make sure the merry mood saves a little energy, too, by not forgetting to turn off the display at the end of the evening.
You can do it a number of ways.
- Set up smart lights, like those in the Philips Hue family, around the tree or fireplace mantle; they're ideal with those long and flexible light strips or outdoor smart lights for around your home. Inside the house, for example, the Philips Hue 80-inch gradient light strip ($180) can show multiple colors simultaneously, and it can be expanded up to 33 feet by attaching additional lights. You can also sync your Spotify music, perhaps a Christmas playlist, to Philips Hue bulbs, so your lights react to any music. Govee also makes color gradient light strips that will respond to your music.
- If you want to use a regular A19 smart bulb, like what fits in a standard lamp socket, and a smart speaker in one bundle, Amazon offers a third-generation Echo Dot smart speaker with an Alexa-powered Sengled Bluetooth color bulb for less than $20. You can add more bulbs to your room as you see fit.
- Flat, wall-mounted smart lights like the Nanoleaf-branded collections are another great way to jazz up a room. Modular “RGB” (red-green-blue) light panels, like the triangular or hexagonal starter kits (from $170), affix to your wall, and you can then use your voice or an app to control it all.
- With a pack of sub-$20 smart plugs, which are small thingamajigs inserted into an AC outlet or power strip, you can turn non-smart lights, such as a string of old-fashioned Christmas bulbs, into smart ones. Then, with a smart speaker or app, you can control it all, adding timers and schedules.
One more idea for outside: a $25 Star Shower Laser Magic Laser Light Show Projector to splash a gloriously festive light show against your home, from up to 100 yards away. Suitable for temperatures as low as minus-30 degrees Fahrenheit, this lawn ornament projects thousands of points of moving lights like tiny stars. It needs to be plugged in, so a weatherproof extension cord is ideal. LightShow and LedMall make similar products.