Idaho Couple Wins Lawsuit Over Their Holiday Light Display

iStock/Arina_Bogachyova
iStock/Arina_Bogachyova

If you live in a residential neighborhood, you’ve probably seen a number of houses that take holiday decorating to the next level, stringing an ornate display of lights, inflatable characters, and cornea-scorching good cheer.

But not everyone enjoys these elaborate expressions of festivity. In Idaho, a couple just won a lawsuit they brought against their local Homeowners’ Association (HOA). The reason for the dispute? A grandiose expression of seasonal spirit.

Each year, Jeremy and Kristy Morris blanketed their Hayden, Idaho, home with more than 200,000 lights, invited carolers to sing, and arranged for a live nativity scene with a real camel. The spectacle has attracted busloads of people and garnered the Morris family some local notoriety, evolving into an attraction that might be worthy of admission. No fees were charged, but the Morris family did accept donations for local cancer charities.

But when they relocated to a new home in 2015, the HOA protested, saying that the home was in violation of rules that prohibit homeowners from prompting increased traffic or mounting excessively bright lights on their property. The Morrises, in turn, argued that the HOA was displaying a bias against their religion.

In 2018, after some nasty letters, the Morris clan decided to sue, claiming the HOA was discriminating against them. Jeremy Morris, who is an attorney, asked to be de-annexed from the HOA and sought $250,000 in punitive damages. According to ABC 7, a jury found in favor of the family and awarded them $75,000 in damages, asserting the HOA was in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act.

But victory appears to be bittersweet for the Morrises, as the protracted controversy and enmity has dampened their motivation to continue their holiday tradition at their current home. Jeremy Morris told the Coeur d'Alene Press that his family will be using the money awarded in court to move his family to a neighborhood more hospitable to their brand of good cheer.

[h/t ABC 7]

Delight the Kids In Your Life by Calling Santa on Your Smart Home Device

iStock.com/adamkaz
iStock.com/adamkaz

If you’ve got a smart home device, Santa may be coming early this year. You and the true believers in your life can ring up St. Nick with both Google Home and Amazon’s Alexa devices. Here’s how.

If you live in a Google-equipped house, you can say “Hey Google, call Santa.” As Lifehacker reports, you’ll hear a dial tone, then the voice of an elf will come on, promising to transfer you to the big man himself. Santa will then tell you that he needs help with his holiday musical, asking you various questions about potential music choices. After you answer all the questions, he’ll incorporate your answers into a holiday song. (It also works with the Google Assistant on your phone, where you’ll get some graphics to go along with the experience.)

Alexa can help you and your favorite youngsters connect to Santa, too. You’ll need to enable Amazon’s kid-friendly FreeTime, according to Digital Trends, after which you can just say “Alexa, call Santa.” An elf or some other holiday helper will answer, then Alexa will ask for Santa. A pre-recorded exchange between the virtual assistant and Santa will ensue, because naturally, Santa’s too busy in mid-December to take all his calls.

If Christmas music is your jam, you can enable Alexa’s iHeartRadio skill and ask Alexa to “talk to Santa Claus,” who will then ask you a series of questions before coming up with a personalized holiday playlist for you.

As Christmas gets closer, you can track the whereabouts of your presents with either Google Home or Alexa. For Google Home, you just need to ask, “Hey Google, where’s Santa?” to get Santa Tracker updates. For Alexa, enable the NORAD Tracks Santa skill and say, “Alexa, ask NORAD Tracks Santa, where’s Santa?” to get an update from the North American Aerospace Defense Command on St. Nick’s location.

Why Does Santa Claus Give Coal to Bad Kids?

iStock/bonchan
iStock/bonchan

The tradition of giving misbehaving children lumps of fossil fuel predates the Santa we know, and is also associated with St. Nicholas, Sinterklaas, and Italy’s La Befana. Though there doesn't seem to be one specific legend or history about any of these figures that gives a concrete reason for doling out coal specifically, the common thread between all of them seems to be convenience.

Santa and La Befana both get into people’s homes via the fireplace chimney and leave gifts in stockings hung from the mantel. Sinterklaas’s controversial assistant, Black Pete, also comes down the chimney and places gifts in shoes left out near the fireplace. St. Nick used to come in the window, and then switched to the chimney when they became common in Europe. Like Sinterklaas, his presents are traditionally slipped into shoes sitting by the fire.

So, let’s step into the speculation zone: All of these characters are tied to the fireplace. When filling the stockings or the shoes, the holiday gift givers sometimes run into a kid who doesn’t deserve a present. So to send a message and encourage better behavior next year, they leave something less desirable than the usual toys, money, or candy—and the fireplace would seem to make an easy and obvious source of non-presents. All the individual would need to do is reach down into the fireplace and grab a lump of coal. (While many people think of fireplaces burning wood logs, coal-fired ones were very common during the 19th and early 20th centuries, which is when the American Santa mythos was being established.)

That said, with the exception of Santa, none of these characters limits himself to coal when it comes to bad kids. They’ve also been said to leave bundles of twigs, bags of salt, garlic, and onions, which suggests that they’re less reluctant than Santa to haul their bad kid gifts around all night in addition to the good presents.

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