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Posts Tagged ‘light displays’

When I was a little girl, my parents would take the seven of us kids to look at Christmas lights. We would pile in the car and just drive around different neighborhoods, near and far. In those days, for the most part people didn’t have elaborate holiday displays. It was the late 50’s and early 60’s. Most yards had just colored lights around their house or some houses would put the lights only around their windows, like my family did. Some houses would get lots of ooohs and ahhhhs for having just one color of lights instead of multi-colored lights.

Although we lived in California, we would bundle up with coats and gloves and hats when we went out because the evenings did get cold, or at least colder than the usual warm weather we were used to. We always needed to bundle up too because my father would sometimes drive us up into the mountains where the more affluent homes were. There was no telling where we would end up when we set out to look at Christmas lights. When we went into the “better” neighborhoods, it was a special treat because those people had lights on the trees and shrubs in their yards and most of them also had some kind of display, like a nativity scene or Santa and his team of reindeer. When we found a cluster of homes with neat yard decorations, we would park the car and walk from one yard to the other, taking our time at each yard.

Usually there weren’t a lot of other people that got out of their cars but once in a while, we’d find a house with such elaborate decorations that it would cause a traffic jam and people would just park their cars and walk around the neighborhood. I remember one house in particular that had animated decorations in their yard; Christmas carols were playing and if you stood there and waited long enough, there was some kind of machine that made it snow in the yard about every fifteen minutes. There was always a crowd at that house. We would stand there and watch the gingerbread men with moving arms and legs. Their decorations were embellished with colored lights. Giant candy canes and gum drops whose glow lit the way in the otherwise darkened streets put us into a trance, broken only by my mother’s insistence that we move on or go back to the car before our hands and feet broke off!

One time we went back to that same house on Christmas Eve and there were so many people that we had to park a couple of blocks away. When we walked to the house, we all walked holding hands. My older brothers were in charge of us younger girls. I usually held David’s hand and he was always very careful that I didn’t get hurt or trip or that I didn’t cross the street at the wrong time. That night there was a bus full of people and many families, too. When we got nearer to the house, we could hear singing that wasn’t the same as the one coming from the speakers in the yard on previous visits. The police had roped off the sidewalk and people were walking by the house slowly but no one was allowed to stop for very long. In a way, that was better because the singing was coming from a choir that had set up in the wide snowy driveway of the house and when you got past the house, there were people handing out hot chocolate and candy canes. It was more exciting that night than it had been on previous nights, perhaps because of the number of people there. People weren’t pushy or loud or rude like they can be these days. The kids were all well behaved and everyone seemed to be happy to be there. It was a good feeling to be in the same place with so many happy, smiling people.

Now I think back on the simpler days when a family could jump in the car and drive around getting true enjoyment from looking at simple Christmas lights and being together with each other. It didn’t take expensive movie or theater tickets to please us. It didn’t take a visit to Disneyland. It didn’t take a lot of money. It just took being together and enjoying the magic and the simplicity of the holiday.

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