Saturday, December 10, 2005

Christmas Lights

One of my favorite things to do during the Christmas season is to go see Christmas lights. Last week, my friend Cassandra and I went to Mt. Dora to see the lights. We took pictures but they do not do the displays any honor.

When I think of all the arrangements I have seen, I don't know if it is the lights themselves or the originality of their arrangements that amazes me. I don't claim to be so creative or extravagant with my own Christmas lights but I don't stop marveling over the arrangements some people go to great lengths to put up. Some of my favorite Christmas light aren't even in Florida, though some are. I thought I would make a list, but not necessarily in order of importance:

1. Composite lights in the apartment buildings off el Expreso Las Americas, blinking on and off, on almost every apartment for at least 20 stories. Some of these apartments didn't even have curtains but they most certainly had money for lights, arranged like triangles for a tree, others like a big star of David, for the star of Bethlehem, or a simple string zig zagged to the metal bars of a balcony. So as you drove past at 50 miles per hour, you had to be careful not to look to closely or you could crash.

2. Another memory that stands out was when on a Christmas vacation to Holland MI I went to see lights with Lil Koning, Rosita's mom in law. On our drive through town we stumbled upon a marvelous display of lights outside in the suburbs. About 3 or 4 neighbors decorated their houses and front lawns with deer, mangers, carolers, sleighs, and actual music being piped out into the air. Wow! Terrific!

3. My next memory is of hundreds of Christmas lights strung across one side of the street to the other in Old San Juan at about 50 foot intervals all the way up and down all the old cobblestone streets. These white lights looking more like diadems highlighted the red poinsettias in the Spanish balconies of the old city. Now that is beautiful.

4. Once in Old San Juan you had to view the Christmas arrangements at Gonzalez Padin store front in Old San Juan, in front of the Alcaldia, or City Hall. What a tradition that was! In fact, some one seems to still decorate the "vitrina" or store front, just to keep up with the tradition, in spite of the fact the store has long been closed. Around the corner was the Departamento del Estado with its huge green wreaths with enormous red bows. It was a customary and mandatory ritual to go see the Three Kings in front of the Capitolio and then the lights in Old San Juan, at least once during the Christmas holidays. Christmas wasn't Christmas without that drive.

5. Now that I am in Central Florida, I still enjoy, Christmas lights and there are no better ones than the display put up by the quaint town of Mt. Dora. They decorate the whole town square, with a colorful display which includes about 15 lit trees from top to bottom, as well as, a horse and buggy, Santa and his sleigh, and other secular delights. The rest of the town gets into the act with even the marina area all dressed up in lights and as well as the surrounding lake front properties having their individual docks all lit up, too. It is quite a sight.

6. Another favorite and I think the most harmonious display, has always been at El Monte Apartments in Rio Piedras. These neighbors would get together and design a unified design which would span the entire height and width of these two enormous curved buildings. The designs varied year to year, one year it was The Giant Three Kings bearing gifts for Jesus, another time huge red pascuas or poinsetta, A guitar and maracas y guiros, or a manger scene.

7. But you know, as I look back, my favorite lights were the ones on my tree as I would turn off the lights in the house and lay down on the floor with my children and look up into my Christmas tree with my three little ones lying right next to me, on the cool terrazo floor in Valle Escondido enjoying and loving each other and the wonder of the moment usually singing Silent Night acapella.

So now, go ahead, kick back, and recall your favorite Christmas lights. Making a big deal about Jesus' birth is a good thing. Let your lights shine and honor him.