Friday, December 21, 2007

Lights, Lights, and More Lights

One of my favorite things to do during the holidays is look at Christmas lights. We're fortunate because in our city, there are two sections of neighborhoods known to be terrific for light viewing. I know this because I looked it up on the Internet last year, and there the information was at The best part of all is that both sections are in our neighborhood-- our subdivision, anyway.

Casey's been asking to go for a while, but every weekend it's been rainy or we've been sick, or we've had other plans. But tonight, we made time. After a quick bite to eat, we headed over to the area known as Candy Cane Lane. It got this name 20 years ago when the houses along the cul-de-sac all lined their driveways and walkways with candy canes. And it grew from there. Their electric bills go up $200 during the Christmas season. People drive through with the lights on their cars. Families hang out on their driveways around portable fire pits. People hand out free hot chocolate and hot apple cider. And then there are carollers. It's pretty cool.

Pictures really just don't do it justice, but here are a few -- to give you an idea of what it's like:

Casey and Marcie all bundled up to walk the three cul-de-sacs, including the famous Candy Cane Lane.

The first house on the corner of Candy Cane Lane.

A couple houses down-- see how they have strings of lights that connect houses across the street from each other?

Me and Marcie in front of one of the houses. You can't tell as much from this picture, but the lights covered even the branches of the palm trees.

Part of what I love about garish Christmas lights like the ones on this street is that you know it can't just be for the homeowners. They aren't spending weeks stringing up hundreds of strands of Christmas lights just because they like how it looks when they arrive home from work. I mean, I'm sure they do like their own work. But they do it for reasons much bigger than just themselves. They do it so that people like me can come enjoy the sights. And that's a little bit of what Christmas is all about, isn't it? Giving to other people a small part of ourselves?

A couple weeks ago, a lighted NOEL sign in a neighbor's yard was knocked over and vandalized. I know this because the next day, when we saw it was knocked down, we noted the hand-made sign erected next to the fallen-down NOEL. It stated quite simply: Vandals. Saturday night. And everyone who passed that house knew exactly what happened. They put up their NOEL again the following weekend, and it seems to be standing just fine. I was mad at the vandals, of course. How dare they take away such joy from others? For what? A few moments of activity in an otherwise bored (and boring) existence?

Tonight, as we passed by homeowners hanging out in their driveways, I went out of my way to thank them for putting up their lights and decorations. One homeowner was plugging in some music onto loud speakers-- his lights were timed to blink on and off with the beat of the music. I told him how much we appreciated his efforts and enjoyed walking the streets each year. He told us it was a lot of work-- every morning he has to re-arrange all the pieces. Vandals, he explained. And we both shook our heads in dismay. What to do, though? Give up? Not decorate? Thankfully, this man believes the lights are worth the effort of re-arranging day in and day out. Otherwise, the grinch-like vandals might win out-- but the Spirit of Christmas is pretty tough to beat, even when it comes in the form of Vegas-style lights.

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