Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Holiday Lights Brighten Dreary Winter Nights

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Holiday Lights Brighten Dreary Winter Nights

Article excerpt

Please don't be offended, but my favorite part of the season has come. The Christmas lights are going up all over town.

I like them all: the teeny, tiny, ever-so-elegant white lights; the big, old-fashioned colored bulbs; the blinking strings; the flashing stars. I like the overdone, too-many-is-not-enough effect of the Rockefeller Center display. I even like bare, single bulbs atop electric candles, shining down from lonely third-floor garret windows. I never met a Christmas light I didn't like.

Don't get me wrong - there's a lot not to adore about the stuff that goes along with the holiday wattage. Mechanical reindeer, long lines at the post office, and the inescapable strains of "Jingle Bell Rock" all come to mind. But if you can shut out the noise and the annoyance of the rest of it and drink in the glimmer with your eyes, you'll see what I mean.

It's one of the few holiday conspiracies that I can forgive, even applaud. I love how retailers and public-works crews sneak up earlier and earlier installations of these twinkly harbingers, and how together city hall and the private sector have consented to let them sparkle a few days longer each year.

Around Harvard Square, where I live in Cambridge, Mass., the stores begin plugging in by late October, shoving aside the pumpkins and goblins before the candy corn's been finished off. Most people find this a repulsive jump of the seasonal gun, but I disagree entirely. If it were up to me, Christmas lights would be mandatory by the last Sunday in October, to coincide with the end of daylight savings time. Then, at least, that first week of darkness at teatime would be offset by just a little sparkle at sundown.

Maybe that's the root of my love - the fact that Christmas lights come just when we need them most. The transition to that leafless, colorless end of autumn is cruel - no snow yet to soften the lines, no highlights to cover the gray.

It was a season that lasted too long when I was little, back in Maine, where the fall foliage peaked too early and the permissible date for erecting those outdoor displays was puritanically late. Rockland, my hometown, was a place where Christmas lights were a particularly low civic priority. …

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