Sunday, December 5, 2010

Advent Calendar - December 5: Outdoor Lights

This post is number 5 in a series of 24 for the 2010 Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories.

On the 20th day of Christmas,

My neighbors gave me a treat,
they lighted up the whole darn street!

1) Did people in your neighborhood decorate with lights?

When I was a kid (1950s and 60s), there were few lights outside the homes, if any, in San Diego. We had no lights outside the house, mainly because we lived on the second floor and with the lighted Christmas tree in the cubby-hole, it was visible to passers-by on the street.

Starting in about 1970 (when we married), I noticed that some neighbors would string lights around their roof eaves or on a bush or tree in the yard. We put strings of lights on our roof eaves all across the front of the house and garage and in the entry-way starting in about 1975 until about 1995. We haven't done it since, mainly due to safety reasons (I'm not confident on the roof any more!).

With our daughters away from home, we were often not home at Christmas time.

In recent years, several of our neighbors on our cul-de-sac have the mesh-lights on their eaves, and several have blow-up displays or lighted figures in their front yard.

2) Did some people really go "all out" when decorating?

Oh yes. And they still do, even more. One of the Christmas traditions for our little family in the 1975 to 1985 period was to drive around "Candy Cane Lane" and "Christmas Tree Circle" in Chula Vista to see the outdoor displays - lights, scenes, music, etc. One of our family traditions for awhile was to go to a pizza place with family friends, then drive by the lighted streets, and then have a gift exchange at our house with the friends. Unfortunately, they moved away, and we haven't done it since.

"Candy Cane Lane" is gone, but "Christmas Tree Circle" still exists in Chula Vista. There are many more of these neighborhood displays now all over the San Diego area. I saw a map in a local magazine yesterday of the biggest and best displays. Someone could drive around to about 20 sites using the map.

Originally published on 4 December 2007.

1 comment:

Eileen said...

When I was a kid (1940s and 1950s), in my neighborhood outside of Philadelphia, the use of outdoor lights was not that big. It was a small blue collar company town and it is possible that lighting would be too expensive. In fact, I remember one Christmas when the company was on strike and the parish priest (who came from a wealthy family) distributed gifts and food from his own pockets. Of course, families that were able also contributed.

As I got older and the ownership of cars increased, we used to drive to neighborhoods that we heard about with great light displays. One such neighborhood could be found in South Philadelphia. There were several long streets covering many blocks were everyone decorated and the lights were strung over the street from house to house so it was like riding under a canopy of Christmas lights—breathtaking.

When I was a senior, we moved to a better house and three houses away was one of those over-enthusiastic decorating families. The father was an electrician and I think even the lights had lights and he “cheered” us up by playing Christmas music over loud speakers. What a treat!

The first year that we moved into our home (1985), my husband and I were trying to decide how to decorate it for Christmas. It is a classic Williamsburg colonial style so we decided against outdoor lights. I had the great idea to buy artificial wreaths and wire them with little white lights. My husband and I made up all nine wreaths and we hung them in the windows in the front of our house.

To compliment this we mount live decorated wreaths on the front door and garage; we trim the door, lamp post, mailbox post and fencing with live garlands trimmed with fake red poinsettia flowers and red velet ribbons; and shine floodlights to illuminate the decorations. People started leaving us little notes in our mailbox to tell us how much they liked it. Of course, now-a-days we don’t have to make our wreaths, we can buy them pre-lit. Yet another opportunity lost.