Do you know what I like about Christmas lights?
Excuse me, Shannon...
Weren’t you just bitching about Christmas and its trappings one post ago?
That was then. This is now.
Who the hell are you? The Ghost of Christmas Present? Your objections will be duly noted in my yule log. We’re moving on.
So here’s what’s cool about Christmas lights. They’re not for you. They’re for everybody else. You risk life, limb, and rose bushes clambering up ladders and dangling off roof edges to staple these babies to your eaves and really you don’t see them much. I mean, they’re likely powered down when you’re coming home from work. Sure, you can get one of those timers. We have one. It’s lying like a long-tailed rat in the entryway waiting for Shawn or I to have the time and inclination to figure out how to program the damned thing. Best of luck to it. So you might catch a glimpse of your lights as you pull into your driveway, presuming you’re more together than me, but aside from a soft glowing aura that you might spy as you pass a window, you really don’t see much of your lights yourself. They’re not for you. They’re for everybody else.
I like taking a tour through the neighborhood electrical light parade this time of year, even the lawns bedecked with bloated snowglobes and Santas on steriods. Not classy, perhaps. Indeed, I’ve heard that people in other countries look at the general American Christmas tradition of draping everything that holds still with electric twinkle lights to be the height of tacky.
The term “tacky” is just a way of categorizing someone else’s person aesthetic. It goes with words like “trendy”, “garish”, “hip” and “mainstream”. They have no real definition beyond the external perception of what one person likes in comparison to the tastes of whatever group of people happens to be standing around them. In this world of nearly-infinite possibilities, we have to have categories. If for no other reason then so database managers don’t end up bouncing off the walls in padded rooms muttering incoherencies about taxonomies and coded domains. We have to have them, but they don’t always serve us well, especially when we start trying to wedge each other into them. So for now let’s do what my son often says: let’s take that idea and throw it in the garbage.
The town just north of the one I grew up in actually had ordinances regarding Christmas decorations. If you lived within the city limits, the only outdoor Christmas lights you were permitted were the small white ones. I kid you not. When it comes to my own domicile, I’m not much for the sort of decorations that require generators and air blowers, but if I lived in that town, I’d have to find the biggest Frosty the internet could provide and park it on my lawn just to piss off some pointless-law makers. I think a sound system that blasted “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” would also be in order. Sure, they would fine me, but I’d already be pledging my monthly salary to the electric company at that point anyway, so what the hell?
There’s a house not too far from my office that has so many of those inflatable Christmas friends perched on the rooftop that it looks like the house is in danger flying away. I smile every time I drive by. I’m not saying that I’m tempted to move in across the street or anything, but I appreciate the sentiment. Someone decorated their yard so we could drive by and smile. That’s pretty cool.
Shawn and I draped our own house in seven strands of rainbow-colored, energy-efficient LEDs last weekend. When we come home every night, the kid runs to the light switch and fires them up. We might look out the window for a sec, craning our heads up to see the little twinkle lights nestled under the eaves, but mostly it’s our little “Merry Christmas” that goes out to everybody else.
And speaking of lights, Christmas isn’t the only kind winter holiday afoot. Happy Hanukkah, if that greeting applies to you, and hey, even if it doesn’t.
Have I ever told you why the holidays should be like Star Wars? No, really, hang with me for a sec; I’m going somewhere with this. In the reality that is Star Wars, Han Solo speaks to Chewbacca in English, and Chewy speaks to Han in whatever language Wookies speak and they’ve both obviously made a point to learn each other’s languages so they can converse. So if you speak Christmas, you wish me a Merry Christmas and if I speak Hanukkah, I wish you a Happy Hanukkah. We each get to practice our own language while understanding the other’s and we can speak freely between the two. That’s what I think.
So, from my own language, I say may the force be with you, and may your electric bill be manageable, and may the airplane flying over your house not confuse your decorations with a runway.
(That last bit isn’t a judgement, just a safety concern.)