Fanfare for the Common Man: Christmas Lights

  • Monday, January 14, 2013

One of my favorite Christmas pastimes besides opening up presents is looking at Christmas lights.
As a kid I would often sit in the living room in the dark and just look at the soft multi-colored glow emanating from the family Christmas tree. The lights were comforting. Almost peaceful.
They told me there was peace on Earth, goodwill toward men, and that presents would be coming soon. I didnít give much thought to the first two, but the presents coming soon part always filled me with a contented glow.
I still do it whenever Iím around a Christmas tree and a light switch. I miss the live trees, though.
Pine scent from a can just doesnít capture the essence of a live Christmas tree, though I find it hard to remember a Christmas that didnít include a power drill and an axe as my dad tried to either fill a hole by repositioning a branch or two, or try to hatchet the big elbow bend in the trunk that we didnít see when we held the tree up on the lot.
During the evenings in December my parents would pile us all into the Ford Galaxy 500 station wagon and weíd drive around town looking at all the homes decorated in all their Christmas light finery. Back then exterior illumination was a sense of civic and familial pride. You were scoffed at if you didnít put Christmas lights up on your house.
There were two schools of thought back then when it came to exterior illumination: lights along the front of the house and around the windows, or lights around the shrubs and trees in the front yard. We were a lights along the front of the house kind of family.
And we had one string of lights that my dad tacked along the front of the house, but only part way. We were proud of that one string though. It expressed the Christmas spirit but did not go too far over the top, employing the ďless is moreĒ theory of exterior illumination.
But once the family down the street went out and bought an extra string of lights that all the way along the front of the house, they would scoff in boastful pride and we would seethe in righteous envy.
Every house on every street would have some kind of Christmas light display and we would drive slowly through each neighborhood, sometimes stopping for an extra moment to admire the various displays and inwardly wish our house would look like that next year.
In todayís world you canít do the driving through the neighborhoods thing anymore. You certainly canít stop your car for an extra moment and admire the lights and the front yard holiday displays. If you do, stopping to admire the lights can be called stalking.
Stalking at night means eventually youíll see flashing blue lights in your rearview mirror, or worse, you fall prey to the Neighborhood Watch gangs.
Flashing blue lights in your rearview mirror and Neighborhood Watch gangs mean you get detained.
Getting detained usually brings its big brother along for the ride, the Cavity Search.
This always got me to wondering, though.† I may not visit the dentist regularly but since when did the quality of oneís dental hygiene factor in to whether or not that person went to jail for the night?

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