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Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. The smell of pine in my nose and the dazzle of Christmas lights twinkling in my eye make my soul jump.
I have always been enamored by decadent holiday light displays. They beckon many fond memories of my childhood.
Over the years, my father toyed with outdoor lights from the multicolored to the classic white, but nothing says home for the holidays like the candles in the window and the spotlighted wreath on the front door of my parents’ home.
Traditionally the lights go on for the first time the day after Thanksgiving and glow for the final time on New Year’s Eve.
As a child every night right before dusk, my brothers and I shared the task of turning the lights on. We raced each other to see who could turn the most candles on in the shortest amount of time. I am sure we sounded like a thundering herd of cattle zooming around the house.
When I was young, I thought the candles were boring and wanted to see our yard full of Santas and colored lights—Clark Griswold has always been my hero. But as I have grown older, nothing says home to me quite like the candles burning in the windows.
Growing up my older brother and I developed our own holiday ritual. During the holiday season, we took weekly adventures around town to see who had the most decadent light displays.
As the years passed and we moved away from home, we never discussed the ritual; rather, there came a point on Christmas Eve when, without saying a word, we both disappeared. Meeting in the driveway, we were off to drive past our favorite houses from Christmases past.
We continue to drive by the old house that once displayed a lighted taxidermy setup. The animals and lights have long passed but the memories remain.
My brother and I still reminisce about the way the colored lights danced off the deer’s antlers. We laugh about the raccoon that was always adorned with a wreath.
Knowing it will no longer be there, we still drive the five miles to the other side of town, where all through our childhood, the owners set up their own radio station and created a power bill that must top what I spend in a year. “Frosty the snowman was a jolly happy soul” still plays in our hearts.
As we drive, there is never silence as we point out decorations and judge whose display is best. As of yet, we haven’t found anything to rival the memories of our youth, but we still look.
Our unspoken ritual is something we share alone—no spouses, no younger siblings, just me and my big brother in search of Christmas magic. At the end of our journey, the candlelight of our parents’ home always beckons us back into its warmth.
This year as you decide whether or not to decorate your home this Christmas season, remember not only are you doing it for yourself and your family, but you are also creating memories for hundreds of others who will pass by this holiday season.