For the past eight months I’ve been staying at my parents house, in the suburbs outside of New York City. The suburbs is not ideal for my temperament. For one thing: too much driving and not enough walking. It’s isolating, which I suppose is a positive in a pandemic where maintaining social distance is necessary.
Over the past several weeks, however, I’ve found a new source for lifting my spirits: Christmas lights. I have always loved Christmas lights.
Growing up in a Jewish house, I of course didn’t have Christmas lights, but I always appreciated the neighbors who decorated their lawns and trimmed their homes in lights.
There’s a magic that happens — a sort of alchemy — when you string lights around the frame of a house or even around a small shrub in the front lawn. That simple string of lights and an evergreen tree transform it into a symbol of invitation, a virtual embrace. The lights tell me that people who live there care about creating beauty and spreading good cheer.
The lights and the trees reflect the pagan origins of Christmas, when it was a celebration of the solstice and of the renewal of light.
As with the other holidays that we celebrate at this time of year, the lights provide a beacon of hope in a time of darkness.
I wish people kept their Christmas lights up all year. But I’m grateful for the lights while they last. They lift my spirits and remind me that magic is always at hand.