Christmas Decorations: Why Do We Do It?

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Christmas, wreath, decorationsIt was a cold Saturday morning during the Thanksgiving holiday that I proceeded to turn our front yard and home into a display of flashing lights and holiday gaudiness. The weather for the past several days had been above average in temperature, but on the one day I had to create my masterpiece of holiday cheer, the winds were out of the north and could freeze the tail off a brass monkey.

As I climbed the ladder with a 4-foot plastic wreath that continually tried to take sail with me into the blustery winter chill, I wondered why do we do this each year? It is hard work, lasts for only 30 days, scares the family dog half to death, and causes the neighbors to question why they have bought a piece of property next to the man who evidently tried to help Ernest save Christmas.

What makes us put giant plastic candles on our front porches, or 8-foot Santas hooked to electric fans and tied down like dirigibles?

Why do we risk our lives and place icicle lights that stay up year-round all around the house, and put in our front yards lighted deer that blow over during winter storms and look like they have been hit by a ’68 Chevy?

While I put my two newly acquired lifelike movable lighted deer next to my 20-foot flag pole with its fully revolving 5,000-watt spotlight attached, I reflected back to when I was a child. In the late ’50s, Christmas lights on doorways and houses were something you may have seen in nearby cities, but not on the farms in our area.

Of course, everyone placed their lighted live cedar Christmas trees in front of a window or as close as possible so it could be seen from the outside, but yard decorations were just not that prevalent back then. I remember the visits to town at Christmas time and seeing the storefronts full of lights and Christmas decorations. The homes along Main Street were always beautifully decorated with evergreens and lights. For a small child, those homes were a wonderment of holiday excitement and hopes.

One year, about three weeks before Christmas, my mother and father arrived home from a trip into town. As they unpacked their purchases, they pulled out two long boxes that were decorated with Christmas trees and had the logo of GE on the front of each box. The boxes had come from the Firestone store where my father bought everything.

Each box contained a strand of 12 multi-colored outdoor Christmas lights. Of course, they were the kind that if one burnt out, they all would go out, but they were the most beautiful things I had ever seen. My mother had saved back some special Christmas money to buy the lights and to add some holiday cheer to our Tennessee farmhouse.

My father cut cedar greenery and helped us nail it around the front door. Then he and my sister attached the lights to each side of the doorway and ran a brown extension cord to the single light bulb socket located on the porch. Each bulb was checked and the lights tested to see if they worked. After passing all tests, our outside display now waited for sundown.

I’ll never forget standing in that dark and cold December night as my mother turned on the porch light switch. It was as big an event to me as the lighting of the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center in New York City.

For years, we used those lights from the Firestone store. They soon lost the paint from around the bulbs and you could see light through the cracks in their paint, but they still announced the arrival of the season to our rural countryside.

I guess that’s why I still put up my Christmas lights each year. To announce to others that the season has arrived at our house and to renew those same feelings I felt standing in that cold front yard many Christmases ago– a feeling of belonging and being loved by a family who cared to express the joy of the holiday season.

I hope your season is full of lights from many Christmases ago and many still to come.

1 Comment

  1. Teresa Keen

    December 18, 2020 at 8:38 am

    I love, love, love Pettus Read and miss his regular articles in the TN Home and Farm magazine so much!!! I had read this before, but enjoyed re-reading it. He is a true American, true Christian and true country fella who has truly lived the things he writes about. I have his book, and will re-read it many times, I’m sure, longing for the way country life, and Americans in general, used to be.

    I pray that he is well and active, and still living the “true” life. May God bless him!

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