Christmas lights and Christmas memories
I love traditions and I love holidays. Holidays break up the routine of everyday life. They give something to look forward to and something to plan for. Traditions provide a familiarity and instantly bring a feeling of the season that is being celebrated. Christmas is especially exciting to me because it brings an abundance of both of the things that I love.
My family had a lot of traditions growing up centered around Christmas. Starting with the day after Thanksgiving, we would unwrap the familiar Christmas decorations and ornaments, and our house would quickly be transformed into a Christmas wonderland. We listened to Christmas songs on the radio, attended performances, and watched an ever-growing list of Christmas movies. I looked forward to angel trees, the bustle of the malls, church and family Christmas parties, and giving and receiving gifts. Even our meals on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day included the same menu from year to year.
But out of all our Christmas traditions my favorite was driving around to see the lights on Christmas Eve night. If it ever didn’t feel quite real that Christmas was upon us, this is always when it felt like Christmas. It was a simple tradition. We would drive to “Christmas Street” and wait in a long line until it was our turn to dim the headlights and drive slowly around the circle past the small houses that were each connected to each other by a strand of lights. We’d press up against the window with our eyes glued to the lights on every house. We then drove across the street where wooden boards were placed in front of each house, lit up with a scripture telling the story of Christ’s birth. We would take turns reading all of the signs. After reading the Christmas story we’d turn the radio back on and sing along with Bing Crosby’s “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas,” while driving to other well-lit neighborhoods, until our parents told us it was time to go home so we could read Christmas books before bed. I especially loved that Christmas Eve was the one night my dad left our outside Christmas lights on all night and I could fall asleep to my favorite tradition of the holiday.
It’s hard to explain why I love looking at Christmas lights so much. Maybe it’s being close to family, or the quiet simplicity amidst the chaos of the holiday season, but despite the reason, I knew it was a tradition and Christmas memory I wanted to pass on to my own children. My husband and I have still visited Christmas street most of the years we’ve been married, and when we lived abroad and didn’t own a car, we still found a street full of lights to walk down on Christmas Eve. I am grateful for the physical and metaphorical light of the Christmas season and look forward to enjoying my tradition again in the coming month.