Typically, associations that do regulate holiday decorating impose a time limit on how long a display may remain after the holiday has been celebrated. Some allow displays from Thanksgiving to mid-January, encompassing a number of traditions such as Chanukah and Kwanza. For other celebrations throughout the year such as Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day, and Halloween, an association may set a time limit of a few days to a week, after which the displays must be removed. It’s been said that Halloween has just about surpassed Christmas as the biggest decoration-inspiring holiday in the U.S., so special rules may have to apply to those celebratory decorations.
Most association boards of directors have the power to ban outdoor holiday displays altogether. However, if they decide to go that route, they must not favor one religion over another. Associations have an obligation to be non-discriminatory and uniform in the application and enforcement of holiday decoration rules. For example, they cannot prohibit holiday decorations for one major religious holiday and allow them for another major religious holiday. Additionally, it would be inappropriate for the association itself to spend common funds decorating the community for Christmas without recognizing Chanukah. It is better to use ecumenical decorations that celebrate the season of the year rather than focusing on just one religious holiday.
Most condo communities are authorized to ban religious decorations in the common areas or on common elements. Some homeowners in condos with inside corridors get carried away and set up crèches in the hallways and wreaths on every door. However, allowing this could create an uncomfortable feeling for others in the building who may not practice the same religion or celebrate in the same way.
One of my townhouse associations actually thanked their residents for the cheery lights that many homeowners set out for the holidays because it made the neighborhood seem friendly and inviting. Community associations should take a common sense approach to holiday decoration and create reasonable rules that will help maintain a neighborhood’s quality of life and spirit of diversity and tolerance.