How to hotwire a reindeer
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The zombies, scarecrows, and crank ghosts are all tucked in for a long winter's nap.  Well, all but those you have arranged under the tree wearing little red Santa hats.  You know what I'm talking about.  They're the reason some of your neighbors never drop by for coffee.  Anyway, the seasons have changed and you've begun dragging out the boxes marked "Christmas" from under the stairs in the basesment.  And what to your wondering eyes do appear but the sad remains of a non-functioning lighted reindeer.

For whatever reason, that cheap little $20 reindeer you bought last year doesn't light up anymore.  Or maybe it is one of a $120 set that sort of lights up, but now looks more like a horseshoe, or the letter "n" than a reindeer.   How much time will you spend sitting on the floor of the garage checking bulbs and fuses, all the feeling gone from your frost-bitten fingers, now about as useful as butter knives?  45 minutes was my limit.

You can pitch poor Rudolph into the trash bin.  Just don't let Junior see or it could become a noteworthy entry in his counselor's notebook later in life.  "You still wake up sometimes, don't you?  Wake up in the dark..."  Why not just remove the old lights and start over?  It's much easier than it may look.  If your reindeer is animated, or you like to fold it up after Christmas, read this first.

All you need is a pair of wirecutters, a few boxes of miniature lights, and some patience.
Depending on the size of your ailing reindeer (or polar bear, or life-size Gabriel for that matter), you'll need a few boxes of miniature white Christmas lights. 

If you'd like something a little more unusual (and that would fit, according to those neighbors who don't drink coffee with you anymore), try multicolored lights.  I used three strands of 50 for our poor little Rudolph.

When stringing lights together, keep in mind that you should resist the temptation to string more than three strands of 100 lights together on a single circuit.  You'll blow the fuse on the first strand.  Really.  This is one of those "wet paint" sign moments.  Test it out if you want, but I told you so.
Step 1:  Remove the old lights
Okay, hold on...Step 1A:  Unplug the old lights.  If you start snipping live wires, it's not really going to matter to your neighbors who won't drink coffee with you anymore the exact conditions surrounding your death.  They'll just read in the paper that you were electrocuted in your garage, shake their heads and say to each other, "It doesn't surprise me.  He was so strange.  And did you see those things he had sitting around the tree in his front yard?  Honestly, I just don't think the elevator went all the way to the top floor."  Then they'll sip their coffee and make soft "mm mm mmm" noises until it's time for Jeopardy on TV.
Before you start ripping the old lights from the frame, take a few minutes to study the path they take. 

Also, don't break off those little plastic clips.  We'll use them to hold the new lights.  If a few break off, that's okay.  Zip ties were made for that kind of thing.
You'll end up with a pile of lights, some of which may be worth salvaging.  To be honest, I buy my lights after Christmas when you can get them for $0.75/box, so who cares if 80 of these lights might still work?  Besides, many sockets aren't a standard shape, so there's a good chance the bulbs you've saved won't fit in any of your other strands.

Here's our naked Reindeer.
Step 2 :  Attach the new lights
After you've checked your new light strand to make sure it works, begin by attaching the plug end (the side that plugs into an extension cord or wall outlet) to the bottom of one of the rear legs.  Zip-tie the wire to the leg (no too tightly) to keep the lights from being yanked off the frame when you trip over the wire.  Oh, you know you probably will.

Run the lights up the leg, then along the frame toward the head.  Continue down the front leg, back up the leg, then up along the belly and back down the rear leg where you started.

My strand had a few lights left over, so I jumped to the other rear leg and started back up.
Run the lights straight up the back and up the neck.  If your frame is very simple like mine, you can do one side, the back, and about half the head with two strands of 50.  Your frame may be a little more complex.  The idea is to plan your route so that you don't have to backtrack and end up with a reindeer that's brighter in some areas than others.

Now go up one side of the antlers, over the top, back to the other side, and back down to the head.
Route your lights across the top of his head to the nose, then under the jaw and down the side of the neck.   You're going to bring the lights back up so they'll end up somewhere in the center of the neck.  Where exactly doesn't matter as long as you plug a light into every one of those little clips.
Once again, plan your route.  If you're using strings of 50, you should just about be out of lights and need to figure out where the next strand is going to be connected.

Zip-tie the ends of each strand inside the frame to hold the weight of the plugs.  This will keep your lights from pulling out of the plastic clips.  Tuck extra wire inside the frame and zip-tie it out of the way.
Finish filling in the neck.  Now you're ready for what will be the most challenging part of this project.  Up until now, you had lots of places to put lights.  Seemingly too many places.  But now you're nearing the end of your reindeer, and you don't want to (A) run out of lights before the end, or (B) leave a string of lights trailing behind like a trail of reindeer doodles.

Count how many clips you have left versus your supply of lights.  If your frame is like mine, you'll have just enough reindeer left for your last (3rd) strand of lights.
I went down, then back up the front leg.  Now the challenge is to fill out the side and end up at the bottom of the rear leg.  I went with a criss-cross pattern on this side instead of going straight along the back because I wanted to end at the bottom of the leg.

You may decide to go along the back, down and back up the rear leg, and end somewhere along the belly.
Poor planning will become apparent right about now.  Here we see that I've missed a portion of his flank (flank?  hip?  whatever).  It was a compromise I was willing to live with since it wasn't really noticeable.
Go back and zip-tie any places where lights seem to want to fall out of their plastic clips. 

Don't pull the zip-ties too tight or you could pinch wires and end up with an electrified frame.  That could make you a very bright, though brief addition to your front yard display.
It took about an hour to rewire Rudolph here.   He looks brand new.

Good luck!
S. Blue
If your reindeer is animated:  I failed to mention that this Rudolph used to be animated, but his motor burned out in an ice storm last year.  If your reindeer is animated, pay particular attention to those areas that move and make sure there is enough play so the wires don't crimp or interfere with the movement.

If you want your reindeer to fold back up:  Another fact I forgot to mention is that with all these zip ties added, and probably the routing of the new wires, your reindeer probably won't break down easily anymore.  In other words, if you wanted to fold him back up and put him back in his box for storage, you're probably going to have issues.  But if you really try to box up your reindeer each year, then you may already have issues.  Just put him up on a shelf or hang him with string from the rafters in your garage.   There are too many other fun things you could be doing.
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