I have always loved the Christmas lights. They lend warmth to a bare, cold room or a tree bereft of leaves, a city gray and stark in the chill of winter. They beckon a traveler toward the warmth of home; provide illumination in the absence of the sun.
When I was a young child, much of our simple seasonal excitement revolved around lights. Returning home in the early darkness, as the car topped the 12th Street hill, my brother and I would look to see if grandma was home. Did the plastic, seven-place, fake candles burn blue in the south-facing window? If the window was dark, no one was home. In those days, everyone knew it was not safe to leave lights plugged in and unattended.
A fall schedule properly checked off, meant that Daddy or Grandpa put up Christmas lights late in fall as part of the waning yard work. Lights remained ready and waiting all through November, but not plugged in until after Thanksgiving. A sigh of completion escaped the ladies the year lights festooned every gable of the old house. It can take several painstaking years to garner enough by prudently adding a string each year. A Christmas Eve drive through expensive neighborhoods where homeowners competed for the annual Christmas decorating prize, was an unbreakable tradition-something you had to do between the oyster soup and unwrapping gifts.
Lights were a part of my childhood Christmases, but they were only a manufactured replica of the beauty that makes Christmas season so magical. A few days ago, I was drawn outside just before bedtime. The full moon cast light across the hills and onto the snow. Sheer planes of icy frost glittered like frozen fireflies. Suddenly, I knew whence came the inspiration for Christmas lights.
Could it be entire generations have traded electric lights, battery operated LED lights for forgotten natural beauty? Musing, I wonder if I have been content all these years splashing in a mud puddle when there was a holiday at the seaside available to me (C.S. Lewis).
But oh, if the imitation of nature yields so much peace and goodwill and joy and memories, how much more the real thing?
I wish you plenty of strolls in the moonlight; plenty of:
“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” Anton Chekhov
“The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow, gave the lustre of midday to objects below.” Clement Clarke Moore, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas (1823)