There are many sights and sounds of Christmas that help people feel the magic of the season.
While we focused on the sounds of the season Wednesday, with the various songs of Christmas, today we are going to turn our attention on the sights of the season that help set the stage for celebrations.
In particular, we are going to focus on visuals in the form of Christmas light displays.
Growing up my parents never placed Christmas lights on their house so televised lights and trips through the neighborhood to see the lights on the other houses were my approach to seeing the lights of the season for many years.
One of the most iconic Christmas light scenes on film for me comes courtesy of the Griswald family.
I am sure almost everyone reading this has seen National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. In the movie family patriarch Clark Griswald creates what he feels is the ultimate Christmas light display by covering every scare inch of his house in lights.
After many failed attempts to get the lights to shine Clark is finally able to fill the night sky with his version of Christmas much to the delight of his family, even though some of the lights do not end up blinking.
There are of course many other hijinks that ensue along the way for the Griswald family but in the end they learn valuable lessons about Christmas and also learn that Cousin Eddie can’t swim.
Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios got into the holiday light business in 1995 when it started hosting the Osborne family light show after it outgrew its Arkansas roots.
Millions of lights are used to transform one of the city street sets of Disney Studios into a choreographed display of lights.
The ABC television network, which is owned by the Disney Company, even has a show where families from across the country can show off their festive over the top light displays while competing for a trophy and a cash prize to use to buy more lights to make an even bigger display the next year.
As the Disney display and ABC show demonstrate Christmas lights have become big business in recent years.
Of course while some of the displays are pretty others can be downright gaudy and lose sight of what Christmas should be all about.
One area that seems to understand the balance between honoring Christmas and putting on a show in the night sky is a neighboring town just south of the Gigaplex that has held its Festival of Lights for 16 years.
Each December the people of Dickinson, TX transform a city park into a winter wonderland.
And much like the story of the Arkansas family’s display that ended up at Disney, the Dickinson lights also started in a neighborhood before they expanded to the park.
The festival is free to attend and even includes a ride in a big yellow school bus from a local shopping plaza.
As an aside, the space between school bus seats has really shrunk in the time since I last rode them.
I have attended the festival bundled up in the cold and in shorts and a t-shirt. Such is the weather in this part of Texas during December.
While the need for a jacket seems to change year by year, the displays at the festival have not changed much since I have started attending. The consistency of the display is part of the charm.
By keeping the display the same year after year, people are able to look for their favorite lights that help them get in the holiday mood. Of course each time I go I have to look for the alligators and the flamingos since those remind me of Florida.
There are lights indicative of Texas as well and on those cold winter nights they even have hot chocolate and cookies available in the snack shack to round out the holiday feeling.
While the walk through the festival of lights certainly helped me observe the sights of the season there is still much more to see before the Christmas season is over.
There will be the visuals of shoppers rushing home with their packages along with the visuals of the bell ringers with their red kettles.
As for seeing more Christmas lights I will see more of those on Christmas Eve as I drive through my parents’ neighborhood to their house following candlelight service.
Their house is always easy to find as it is the one without any Christmas lights on it.
But as Linus taught us although they are nice to look at one does not need to light up the night sky with a house wrapped in twinkling lights to know the true many of Christmas.
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them; and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.”
And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to try to convince my parents to look into some exterior lighting for next Christmas.
Copyright 2013 R. Anderson