This article originally appeared on watchdog.org.
By this time in the new year, only the most ardent lovers of winter holidays are still clinging to their tinsel-covered trees and fully decorated front yards.
The rest of us have packed away the inflatable Santa Claus and strings of Christmas lights — probably in a manner that will make them impossible to untangle when we dig them out of storage in December — and tossed our dried-out evergreens on the curb for an inglorious final ride.
Yes, the holiday season is over. And in some parts of Orange County, California, it may never return.
In a move that would make theBurgermeister Meisterburger proud, theOrange County Public Works department threatened at least 21 homeowners with fines for “excessive decorations” during the month of December, according to CBSLA.com.
The fines were $500 per day and were targeted at homes in the Ladera Ranch subdivision, where residents apparently have too much holiday spirit.
The residents of the subdivision have a tradition of competing for the biggest, most elaborate lighting display.
The department told CBSLA.com that the “excessive” lights were a safety hazard because of power cords that cross sidewalks and would have to be removed.
Of course, residents were told they would be able to carry on with their holiday displays if they purchased a permit from the department.
Nothing puts you in the Christmas spirit like applying for a permit, right?
That permit would cost $583, along with a $1,000 surety fee and proof of a $1 million insurance policy, the Orange County Register reported. That’s on top of what have to be astronomical electric bills for the month of December, don’t forget.
The Scrooges at the Orange County Public Works department did not return calls for comment, but in several local news stories about the fines they insisted that public safety was the top concern.
But whether it’s for safety or for revenue, the message is clear. Even a friendly neighborhood competition over Christmas lights is not safe from grouchy government nannies.