It’s cold. It’s winter. I want to stay indoors. I want to drink cocoa in front of the fireplace with my jolly family.
But I am already dressed for the outdoors, so I must go. I wear an all-purpose wool sweater that resembles a llama.
It is getting dark.
Did you forget your shoes?
Slip into the fleece-lined slippers that double as shoes.
The Rolling Stones are singing “Winter” on my iPod.
The Christmas lights in my neighborhood are already on at 4:30. The scene is stark: bare trees, chunks of icy snow under the evergreens, and a pink-orange sunset as faraway as outer space. The lights are the only sign of softness. When I walk around the block, I see 25 decorated houses. Lights twinkle from roofs, trees and bushes. Tacky lit-up creches, LED sleighs, reindeer, and window menorahs glimmer.
I miss the bleakness. The bleakness is kind of pretty.
I don’t approve of Christmas lights. I am an uptight hipster, not as oxymoronic as it sounds, who doesn’t do drugs or concerts but who cares about energy conservation. The lights waste energy. The greenhouse gas emissions are huge. I read that each bulb on holiday lights produces enough carbon monoxide to fill 15,500 hot air balloons.
So what are my neighbors thinking?
LED lights are supposed to be more eco-friendly. Are my neighbors using LED lights?
I can go door-to-door and say, I wish you a Merry Christmas, I wish you a Merry Christmas, I wish you a Merry Christmas, and do you use LED?
People have different attitudes towards Christmas lights in different neighborhoods. Poor? No lights when we lived in a neighborhood of mostly run-down houses. Urban apartment house? No lights, except indoors. Working-class? Bright bright lights, Santas, sleighs, reindeer in a competitive neighborhood trying to design the best displays. Wow! I want to go back there and take pictures. Middle-class urban neighborhood & Suburbs? Very subdued, mostly very pretty, as if in church, only a few fright shows of explosive high wattage.
Why do I think so much about lights? I sit in front of my computer under low-energy light bulbs that don’t emit enough light. Soon, I understand, we will not be able to get the bright old-fashioned kind. I feel that I am being deprived of good light for the sake of an invention that isn’t quite good enough. Perhaps this is how people feel about Christmas lights
The Rolling Stones mention Christmas lights in “Winter”:
And I wish I’d been out in California
When the lights on all the Christmas trees went out
But I been burnin’ my bell, book and candle
And the restoration plays have all gone ’round
And W. S. Di Piero describes them in “Chicago and December”:
I walk north across
the river, Christmas lights
crushed on skyscraper glass,
bling stringing Michigan Ave.,
sunlight’s last-gasp sighing
through the artless fog.
They fascinate us with their different rhythms and ways of thinking about lights.
In the end we have to accept the lights. It’s Christmas.