Updated: Jan 13
Count me in as one of those annoying holiday enthusiasts who sees the world through cranberry colored glasses from mid November through late January.
Honestly, bring on the rain cloud. Gripe about the shameful commercialization of the sacred. Introduce me to grumblers arguing the merits of “Merry Christmas” over “Happy Holidays” (fun fact: nobody owns the symbolic celebration of light in the darkest days of winter, it’s just too old) or confront me with generic child-like automatons jerking left to right in a sad impersonation of caroling at the mostly empty local mall… you simply cannot get me down.
Even steeped in the world's disappointments this season is at its core, joyful. It revolves around giving in all forms. The holidays offer a two month span when thinking about what life might be like for another person is not just encouraged, but publicly endorsed. Understandably, the season calls up a range of emotions for most of us. In fact the erratic expression of feelings is baked into the cultural story of holiday dinners, or time with relatives, sometimes with hilarious results. Ironically, most of the year our emotions rule our lives, indeed make our decisions, yet we’re conditioned to stuff them, sublimate them or otherwise back-burner them.
It may be this seasonal burst of sentiment that is responsible for another intriguing piece of the holiday puzzle: the overnight transformation of the ordinary neighbor into… an artist. That’s right, many who do not identify as artists for the other ten months of the year are suddenly all in for an extravagant decorating-palooza, and can be seen meticulously outlining their houses with twinkle lights amid a smoke screen of faux-irate objections. We are not fooled. The creative act is a privilege that enlarges any soul. The curious beauty illuminating the sidewalks and lawns of the American city and suburb in December is another type of gift, a freely shared form of expression generously offered to anyone with the time to drive or walk by. Bright lights against a black sky are a beautiful sight, their popularity owing to the same captivating qualities that drew us as teens to covet blacklight posters tucked in the dark isles of Spencer’s Gifts. The magic of the winter’s night neighborhood color scape is not just in its physical sparkle, but in the time and care each strand took to place and secure, crafting a mystical wonderland that says “Here, person that I don’t know and may never meet, this moment of inspiration is on me.”