Since we lived in the country about the only lights we saw at night were the stars, the moon, kerosene lamps, outdoor lanterns and car headlights. Other than that, our world was enshrouded in darkness. Once a year, though, I could hardly wait to take our annual trip to town for the tour of lights that lit up stores, businesses, houses, trees and lawns. Perhaps "tour" is too strong of a word, but rather a drive through town conducting whatever business my parents had to do. Us kids took in the beautiful sights that we would only see at somebody else's place.
Actually, I don't recall seeing lighted Christmas trees in country peoples' windows, but the folks uptown really "did it up." And as is true of every city, the people who live there take their annual holiday tours to see the display of lights that only the middle class or rich families can afford.
Today, there are lights that flash, dance, run, hop, skip and jump, turn somersaults, stand on their head then flip back upright. Holiday lights do all kinds of acrobats today, but back then they were colorful and blinked on and off. That was about it. As we rode past the houses, I tried to keep the rhythm of their "on-off" pattern but seldom was able to do so. Anyway, the part of the city that was always decorated was Main Street, and this is the street that we drove up to get to downtown or to the other side of town. Some neighborhoods had no lights. At least nowhere near the scale of the wealthier homeowners on the popular Main Street.
We poor, country kids longed to have just one bulb on our bare tree. These houses not only had their curtains pulled back so their fairyland Christmas tree lights awed us poor peasants, but they had lights strung on trees, dancing across the lawn, climbing around and up the tree trunk and anyplace else a light could hang. Their displays were the envy of anyone who couldn't afford to buy even one single bulb let alone a string of lights.
Going to the town of Hope and gazing at all the enchanting Christmas decorations was the highlight of our holiday season. Those families with the lit-up houses were probably not aware of how much joy they brought to those of us whose Christmas was made a little more merrier by having seen just one blinking light.
While I can afford a tree and dancing lights today, they don't have the same appeal as those that we couldn't afford way back when. Perhaps it was the totality of Christmas that made it special and not just the lights, even though they did play a big part.