Just as nights become colder, darker and longer, neighborhoods and towns are beginning to sparkle with the warmth and joy of holiday lights. Main Streets glitter with decorations, Christmas trees warmly glow through living room windows, and barren trees come to life with strands of colorful bulbs. Holiday lights have a magical ability to make us feel happiness and hope.
Most of us like to decorate our homes at least a little for the holidays, and we usually have some pretty strong opinions on the matter. Some of us like to keep it simple. Others like to go all-in like Clark Griswold with his fuse-blowing decor in Christmas Vacation. Chances are we could each weigh-in on a discussion about white or colored lights, big or tiny bulbs, flashing or continuous settings, and, of course, those inflatable yard decorations. I do love driving around seeing people’s holiday decorations, and I always appreciate the effort even if they’re not exactly to my taste.
One year I wasn’t able to micromanage the hanging of the lights in our own yard, because I needed to attend my school’s winter chorus concert. I left detailed directions, including a carefully-drawn graphic, for my husband and teenage son. When I returned home that evening, I chuckled smugly at the tacky lights flashing from someone’s house down our street. As I drove closer, my heart sunk when I saw the brightly colored lights haphazardly strung every which way were in my yard.
I took a deep breath, walked into the house, and said with as much enthusiasm as I could muster, “The lights look so…fun.” My husband and son fell on the floor with laughter. They got me. I always feel like I passed some great test of Christmas spirit by not completely freaking out. Of course, those lights came down that very evening, and we all had a great time decorating according to plan.
I’ve had the chance to see some amazing holiday lights around the country, and I’m thrilled that this year there is a huge holiday light display right in my hometown. For the first time, our local museum is celebrating the holidays with more than a million sparkling lights. The only thing better than holiday lights are holiday lights mingled with beautiful architecture, sculptures, and artwork!*
Whether the display is large or small, extravagant or simple, holiday lights inspire all the wonderful feelings of the holiday season. It’s impossible to look at twinkling holiday lights shining against a clear dark sky filled with its own brilliant stars and not feel joy for the beauty of the world and hope for all of humanity. If we’re very lucky, some of that enchanting light will sink deep into our souls so we can go out into the world and shine a bit of our own light this holiday season. §
“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. Let it shine! Let it shine! Let it shine!”
~ Traditional Hymn
*For information about The Lights at Cedarhurst Center for the Arts in Mt. Vernon, Illinois, go to cedarhurst.org or call 618-242-1236.