December 6, 2013 48 Comments
[This post can be best enjoyed while listening to “Christmas Dreams” by Francesca Battistelli and may bring tears.]
Last night for our Advent celebration activity, my wife had the brilliant idea to go Christmas light watching.
It was a wonderful evening out with her sister and brother-in-law who are staying with us for a few weeks.
They each had their warm holiday lattes in hand, and I had my icy-cold Egg-nog frappuccino (I can’t stand warm drinks), and we were off, driving through one of the richest neighborhoods in Louisville.
After traveling down many streets and oohing and ahing at the pretty displays, I got to thinking:
Christmas isn’t what it used to be.
I remember as a kid we’d go Christmas light watching singing “Jingle Bells Batman Smells” in the backseat of our gold Toyota minivan, but now it’s more like Christmas light searching. I don’t know if Louisville is just that Liberal or if it’s like that everywhere.
Our generation’s parents, I feel like, went all out to decorate for Christmas with giant ferris wheels filled with teddy bears, sleighs zip-lining across the street from one house to the next, polar bears repeatedly popping out of giant presents on the lawn, street after street of dazzling, shimmering light displays bright enough to blind you and cause every driver to slow down and appreciate the neighborly camaraderie.
Streets were nicknamed Candy Cane Lane, and Ice Cycle Road.
Groups of friends went caroling from house-to-house in hopes of receiving peppermint sticks and cups of warm cocoa from grateful inhabitants.
Every night seemed like Christmas Eve.
Are those Christmases behind us?
Now we’re lucky to find three houses on a street that show any sign of Christmas cheer. It’s as if people spent all their holiday expenditures and energy on hanging orange and black Halloween lights and blowing up inflatable ghosts a month ago.
Halloween superstores open up in every county, but now those rented warehouses are vacant once more. Never mind Christmas.
In the ’90s it was rare to come across a barren house and those owners could be excused because they might be Jewish.
But as we were driving around last night, I couldn’t help but wonder about all those parents that went all out a generation ago.
Many of them are retired or nearing it and their lights have probably been thrown out, one broken strand at a time over the years.
Their children are certainly grown, and must not have time to carry on the Christmas-decorating tradition, because now we’re more dazzled by the lights of our iPads and HD TVs.
I mourn the next generation of kids who won’t ever sing “Silent Night” on Candy Cane Lane, or round the corner onto Prancer Circle to find one of the neighbors dressed as Santa giving out candy and hugs.
At the rate we’re going, all their Christmas memories will be trapped in glossy photo-albums, never to have been experienced firsthand.
Sure, they’ll wake up Christmas morning to open their Wii games and iPhones. But what about the rest of Christmas? Where the neighbor’s house imitates the first light display that shone over a Bethlehem barn. Where children sing like the angels over the birth of the King. Where families travel like wise men across town on icy streets in search of the brightest light.
And maybe where a polar bear pops out of an inflatable present bearing gifts.