The holidays can drag after a while. If the constant festive cheer gets too much, here's a project to take your mind off things: make your Christmas tree lights flash when you get new email.

It is, after all, rude to spend the entire Christmas season with your laptop out or smartphone to hand. Some of the time you should be celebrating — but that doesn't mean you can't keep tabs on your inbox.

The guys over at Make have decided to guide you through the whole experience. In the example, they use an Arduino board hooked up to the internet using an ethernet connection, but there's no reason it can't work wirelessly – you just need the right board.

Hooked up to the web, a bit of code on your mail server and the board itself allow the Ardunio to count your unread emails. If the number's changed, it throws a signal to a power switch which controls the AC power connected to your lights.

Voila! When you get a new message, your Christmas lights let you know.

It's possible to use an input from a bunch of API sources, too. In the video, they mention rigging it up to work with YouTube, but you could have your lights flash every time you get a message on Twitter, or when the weather changes, or... well, whatever you want really. What are you waiting for? [Make via Endgadget]