Saturday, November 22, 2014

Waxing Philosophical About Christmas Lights

 
 
A few years ago, I went to pick my daughter up from the Raleigh airport. (I was wearing the exact same coat she bought me for Christmas, but that's another story for another day.) Flying into Raleigh is far less expensive than Greensboro, with an added bonus--we can stop at Southpoint.
Southpoint (for my friends who don't know) is a mall in Durham, right off the interstate between the airport and Winston. And it has a plethora of awesome stores that we don't have here in Winston--Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, and Restoration Hardware, just to name a few. We ate at The Cheesecake Factory, looked (unsuccessfully) for boots for Lib to wear in Philly, and headed home.

 It was dark as we hit the highway (even though still relatively early) and I couldn't help but notice the Christmas lights...or lack thereof.
We all know how old I am--there was a big countdown a few years ago--and one of my fondest memories as a kid is driving around town, looking at the Christmas lights. (Grandma Hazel was a big fan of that particular pastime. In fact, she insisted we drive around town at least once a week between Thanksgiving and Christmas to see if any had been added. This may sound like a waste of time, but as our entire town consisted of an area of about seven blocks by three blocks, it only took about fifteen minutes. Twenty if it was Grandma herself driving, as her own personal approach to driving was to not actually touch the gas pedal.)


Our own house at 32 Washington Street (I don't live there anymore, so please don't try to stalk me at that location) had lights on the front porch, which was actually kind of an off-to-one-side porch, and in the bushes below the porch. These lights, as I recall, were those big, multicolored, elongated bulbs. They were opaque as opposed to transparent, which made them glow in a diffused, softer light. I think maybe we had two strings, total (it wasn't a very big porch). But other houses had more lavish displays--lights outlining the entire roof, 20 foot front yard evergreens covered in lights--even farmers got into the action, putting lights onto fences and outbuildings.

I thought of this as I drove along the highway, where the only lights were headlights and neon. I was hoping once I started into town, there would be some Christmas lights that were a little, well, friendlier.
And what I found was, in a word, disappointment. Even in my neighborhood, where folks have the money to (a) buy lights, and (b) fork over a little extra to Duke Power, I noticed a dearth of Christmas lights.

Why don't folks "do" lights anymore? Yes, we're all concerned about conservation, but there are LED lights out there, and it's only for a few weeks. Some folks are hanging onto the one white candle in every window thing that I used to do when my kids were small (and, don't get me wrong, that's a look that works in the big Georgian homes here in the BV), and there are a few people who place the "netting" of lights on top of their azaleas. (FYI-I consider this cheating. And it looks too perfect--not homey or warm, the way lights are supposed to look. A little too organized for my book.)
Maybe we're all driving to those big light displays--we have one here in Forsyth County--and they are fantastic--but still lacking in the warmth I remember as a kid. There's nothing quite like the strings of multicolored bulbs hanging on the front (or off to one side) porch.

15 comments:

Cassie @ Primitive & Proper said...

we have party lights we leave on the porch year round and i light them up at christmas. i also put lights on a tree outside, and a star, and it's not christmas without them!

Linda @ it all started with paint said...

We have those extra large bulbs that Mike drapes over the porch onto the bush thing next to the porch! Chicagoans do get into the Christmas decorating spirit. Lots of white lights too (which I enjoy and there is always the ongoing debate in this house about white or multi-colored lights) and lots of lighted swags of green draped over iron fences. Very Christmas in the City look.

And it all kicks off next week, right after Thanksgiving. Can't wait!

:) Linda

Bliss said...

Why? Well people are just lazy these days and they hide behind the conserving idea because it's easier than just admitting they are too lazy to hang up lights.

Art and Sand said...

We laugh about the "light situation" in our neighborhood. One house on the boulevard puts up a huge display - actually they put it up years ago and left it. They only turn it on at Christmas. We do a lights around the garage and front porch, but only a few houses on our lane add lights. There is nothing like the displays of my childhood.

Years ago, we had friends from Richmond, Virginia living in town and they told us that lights in Richmond were only in the poor neighborhood because lights on the houses were considered tacky and low class.

Chris K in Wisconsin said...

Our lights are up..... but we don't turn them on until Thanksgiving night. I always told my children, when they asked why we couldn't turn them on right away, that if we turned them on before that day, a baby reindeer would die. (Yes, they are fine, functioning adults.) Seriously, I do know a lot of people who put them up the end of Oct. beginning of Nov. because it is at least above freezing (usually), but don't turn them on til later. I bet if you made that same trip in a week or two you would see many more lights shining!!

Helen Arroyo Hall said...

I've noticed a similar trend here in the RTP. I felt sad on Halloween to see bowls of candy left outside and more often than not, people not willing to enjoy the fun and harmless innocence of dressing up and saying, "Trick or treat!" We pull out the ladder and string up lights each year and sadly, we are only a small handful in our neighborhood. Perhaps life has become so harried and frenetic that we are evolving into the mundane and abandoning the beautiful array that Christmas brings.

Feral Turtle said...

They are all grinches lol. But there is still hope as I notice our area tends to turn them on around the first of December. When I was little, my mom and dad used to take us to a brewery that had decked out their grounds in Disney themed light displays. It was brilliant and I thought we were in Disneyland....needless to say it was a cheap trip for the folks and I thought I had been to Disneyland every year...sometimes even twice in one year!

Danni@SiloHillFarm said...

Oh Kirby, I wish you were here! We have a couple of neighborhoods where people on each street compete like crazy with their Christmas lights and it's such a joy to see! Seriously, one guy has a full size sleigh and 8 full size reindeer. Another has a huge hot air ballon all lit up in his front yard and and yet another does a big merry-go-round. I think many of them rent a storage unit just to keep their outdoor Christmas displays in. I hope they never stop!

AnnMarie aka Vintage Junkie aka NaNa said...

I am with you totally on the homey-ness of the lights these days!! I can't stand those cheating net lights! I love a good dose of large, opaque multicolors on the bushes and trees. But alas, I don't do it myself on my house! Too much work and my husband and I don't have the backs for it! I confess that I resort to the white lights in the windows....works for my Victorian :-)

Heidi @ Decor & More said...

Our neighborhood embraces the lights during the holidays...we used to have a competition -- the winner got a sign in their yard and everything! It wouldn't be the holidays without lights. My parents (in their late 70s) hire a fireman every year to put theirs out and take them back down. No excuses, people! Let there be LIGHTS!
xo Heidi

Lynn@FernAvenueBlog said...

It is a fond memory of mine as well to drive around & look at Christmas lights. I miss those days!!

Mel@Mellywood's Mansion said...

I love the Christmas lights but I don't do them, two reasons one and most important I am so lazy and the idea of getting those lights down in 100 degree heat is so not appealing and 2 during fire season they're a hazard I would rather avoid. That said my auntie does a fabulous job with a snow machine (in summer kids go nuts) and bubble machine, it really is magical. Also it doesn't get dark until after 10pm so you have to have the kids up very late to see them.

Shannon Fox said...

I must live in the cheap and tacky zip code! Lots of lights here.. from the big ones on the hill, to those that need paint jobs and lawns mowed put up lights ;) lol! We load the hedges that flank our home with lights (no netting, all hand strung) and the front gets snowflakes from the eves. Since I discovered Command hooks, we frame the two front windows and the front door with lights too. Happy Christmas :)))

karen@somewhatquirky said...

Lots of lights and blow-up thingies in my neighborhood. Some have already started. The rest start Friday. Mine? Not usually lights.

Good Time Charlie said...

I am so sad for you you don't get tons of lights! I am with Shannon. We have lights galore here, with streets that try to outdo each other and homes that set up light shows with their own radio frequency, so the lights go on and off to the music. We have a tradition with my kids (who are all teens now, and still love it) to drive around and look at lights. Maybe because we live in CA, and don't have to freeze our you know whats off to put the lights up!

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