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What are Icicle Lights?

Where to Install Those Outdoor Holiday Light Strands


picture of candles patio table

The glow of candles warms up the patio on cold winter evenings.

Photo © DIY Trish
I don't know whether it was postpartum hormones, sentiment, or advertisements that got to me, but I recall the Christmas of 1998 -- about a month after I gave birth to my daughter -- just insisting on getting those new icicle lights that were dripping off the roofs, porches and every possible surface of smart and innovative home lighting pioneers. And I usually don't insist on having to "get" anything. I'm usually so practical and such a good sport.

I remember staking out a nearby drugstore that had them on sale the day after Thanksgiving, and being the only one to show up and hunt them down as the nonchalant clerk brought a few more boxes out from the back. And they weren't cheap, as I recall. But they were cool, different and were sure to bedazzle the neighborhood and accentuate our home's Mid-century modern lines like no other lights had done before.

I sure felt stupid when the icicle lights went down in price the following year. Like, drastically reduced in price. In his book, Holiday Hero: A Man's Manual for Holiday Lighting (Chronicle, 2003, San Francisco)*, author Brad Finkle suggests the virtues of icicle light strands for outdoor holiday lighting enthusiasts. "Saying that these lights are popular is like saying January in Buffalo, New York, 'is kind of cold'," he writes. "Rooflines are obvious choices for icicle lights, but don't pass up fences, decks and walkways."

Finkle recommends going with white rather than green wire. "And the longer the vertical drop, the better."

A design tip: since icicle lights are supposed to look like icicles, it's a good idea to hang them where actual icicles might form -- like edges of roofs (eaves). Wrapping them tightly around a tree or porch column might not have that magical, winder wonderland effect. Of course, if you live in a snow-free zone like coastal California, Florida and regions with Mediterranean climates, those icicles are merely a fantasy -- like much of Christmas and the holidays. And that can be a good thing.

He suggests advantages and disadvantages to icicle lights, which are available in clear, warm and cool white, multiple and single colors.


  • Pre-formed vertical-shaped drops
  • Easy to attach with plastic clips, preferably every 6 inches
  • Available or can be displayed in steady or blinking (synchronized to music) modes


  • Like miniature light strands, icicle lights are usually wired in a series
  • Dangling glass bulbs (or fragile plastic) or prone to breakage
  • Winds can blow or flip over icicle lights onto your roof, into your gutters, over the fence, etc.


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