IT'S CHRISTMAS IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD ALL YEAR LONG
When I was a child, like most of my friends, I wanted Christmas to last all year long. And not just because of the presents.
In addition to the spiritual, the holiday meant many contemporary things to me—the wonderful aromas of my mother’s freshly baked cookies and pies in our kitchen, the brightly lit and decorated homes and yards in my hometown looking like a scene from the song Silver Bells, the wonderful Christmas dinner we shared with family members, and the “Hi Neighbor, we’re wishing you well” friendliness of people all around us. For at least a few weeks each year, it seemed everyone was in a good mood, thankful for what they had been blessed with, and willfully sharing with others. Of course the presents were a part of the excitement as well, but they became almost the dessert to the entrée of love and caring I felt leading into the holiday. Yes, I wanted Christmas to last all year long.
Well, be careful what you wish for, because now, it is Christmas all year long in my neighborhood. Only without the smells, bells and Wishing you Wells.
That’s because in my neighborhood, half the homes still have their Christmas lights up.
My parents decorated the outside of our home each year on Thanksgiving weekend, usually on Friday, and we left our lights up and turned on through New Years’ night. After that, the lights came off the rafters and the decorations off the lawn, and life moved on. Granted, I grew up on the West Coast, where we didn’t have snow and ice and slush clinging to our rooftops and gutters until after Valentine’s Day. Still, in the many years that I’ve lived here in Utah, there are ALWAYS a few days during the January/February thaw when those lights could be taken down.
Only not in my neighborhood.
This became apparent to me shortly after New Years. A few homeowners had begun removing their lights and decorations, but many didn’t. The snow that fell rather generously in December was pretty much melted by late January, but it was still Christmas at the Stevensons, Pecks, Johnsons, Whites (fill in a neighbor surname here—they probably still have their lights hung up). By St. Patrick’s Day, I saw shamrocks and leprechauns taped to the inside of windows, even as strands of Christmas lights stayed attached to gutters, or hung down over porches.
Each morning when I took my two-mile walk around the neighborhood, I observed reindeer that had fallen over, manger scenes coming apart, deflated Santas still attached to unplugged air pumps—all could have gone on sabbatical until Turkey Day. Apparently, not in my neighborhood.
Which brings us to a very important date in the next week or so for these neighbors—June 25th. I call this Santa Equinox, the date exactly six months since last Christmas, and six months before next Christmas. This is the day when the still-hung-on-home decorations move from “not being removed by lazy homeowners” status to being “the first decorations put up by proactive, celebratory homeowners” status. Suddenly, because I DON’T yet have my lights up, I’m the “slow one.”
I still love Christmas, and everything it stands for and means. It is a time to celebrate life and love and happiness and peace. Perhaps in their own way, by leaving lights and decorations up into the Dog Days of summer, that’s the message many who live around me are trying to convey—that we should carry the message and meaning of Christmas with us every day, all year long. Or maybe they’re just slackers.
Either way, come Thanksgiving weekend this year, I’ll be back in my yard, hanging lights from the rafters, placing reindeer and candy canes on my lawn, and trying elusively to get all of those extension cords to somehow come together for the six weeks of electrical tradition that signifies my holiday celebration. After that, they head back into the shed.
Because the light of Christmas should last all year long, but not Christmas lights.