My favorite part of Christmas, ever since I was very little, has been the colored lights hanging from trees or the outsides of homes.
Since I have made my fondness for shiny, colored cards -- and obsession with color in general -- abundantly clear, this shouldn't be much of a surprise.
But I see colored, neon lights as a Christmas requirement. It is greater than stockings, greater than trees, greater than gifts, maybe even greater or as great as music. If you have the holiday, you must have the electric lights.
When I was a kid, Christmas lights were quite a bit different than they are now.
That's me in front of the tree. I don't seem terribly interested in the lights, but trust me, I was. You remember Snoopy's super spectacular lights and display contest? Yo, dawg. Loved it.
Back then, lights were great, big, neon bulbs. I'm sure they weren't terribly energy efficient, but energy back then was about sitting in gas lines, not about light bulbs.
The lights were a vast array of colors. There was:
The bulbs gave off relatively low light and were hot to the touch. In fact, there were times when I thought they would burn the whole tree down.
Most people had these large bulbs on their tree, although some used the smaller multi-color bulbs, which I never liked.
Every once in awhile, you'd come across certain "cool" people who had all silver lights on their tree:
It was strange, and sort of awesome. My good friend's parents had a tree like that. The absence of color on the tree disturbed me, and my parents didn't like it at all. I felt like there should be jazz playing in the background and then soon everyone would walk in wearing sun glasses and carrying snifters. But the all-silver lights look, what we would later call "white lights," was here to stay and grew in popularity.
The next thing that came along were bubble lights.
Do you remember when those were super popular? Seeing liquid color bubble inside a light was tremendous, even if the lights were shaped strangely and looked a bit, um, shall I say, odd on the tree. I never knew what that liquid was.
My folks fell for these lights in a big way and I believe they're still on their tree to this day. (By the way, we always had a real tree in our house).
But outside of my parents' home, color was on the way out. As time went on, white lights became more and more prevelant.
Today, white and gold lights seem to outnumber colored lights when I drive down the street. Cities seem to favor white lights across the board when they decorate their downtowns. I will admit, that white and gold lights look particularly elegant on larger, older homes.
Even our tree in our home (I have gone over to the artificial side for many years now), features all white lights. It is very nice and the decorator in the house knows what she's doing.
But I do get an extra thrill -- like when I was a kid -- when I see a multi-colored display on a home. In fact, there is a house less than a mile from me that has the old, large bulbs that I remember from the '60s and '70s on the tree on the side of their home. It's beautiful. (I imagine you can probably order energy-efficient bulbs that match those that were popular 40-or-so years ago).
Tonight we will tour the city, as we do every Christmas eve, marveling at the light displays, pointing out the best, the tackiest and the wonderfully inept.
I hope you have a merry, shiny Christmas, whether it comes from the cards you receive or merely the lights surrounding you.
Personally, I'll take my shiny in both light form and card form.