Saturday, December 15, 2007

Outdoor Decorations - Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories

December 5 - Outdoor Decorations

Around Christmas, when I was young, we used to go for a family drive around the city at least once at night to ‘see the Christmas lights’. I still like to do that if I get the chance.

My Na (my mum’s mum) would come with us and probably we usually had dinner together beforehand. Few people put up more than a few strings of outdoor lights but a whole street of lit houses was still something for us to look at. Some businesses did more – I remember we always went to see the outdoor crèche at a local funeral home. My parents did the ‘Christmas light’ drive even in later years.

Downtown, the bigger stores had ‘Christmas windows’ with fanciful themes and moving characters –toy factories and North Pole villages. We’d stop when we went shopping on a Friday night and look at these. I remember the window displays as much more elaborate than today. Perhaps that’s because I was little, but now many stores don’t even have street side windows to decorate–Santa’s usually somewhere inside a mall nowadays. I don't remember many Christmas lights downtown, but then this was a city with lots of Neon signs, so there was always lots of light and sparkle.

In the parks there was usually a tree or two with lights –now there’s much more. I seem to remember going to Butchart’s Gardens on Vancouver Island a few times in December and a Christmas train has been running in Stanley Park now for twenty years. More than a million lights are involved there apparently!

I really think more people in our own neighbourhood decorated for Hallowe’en than for Christmas, but I will have to see what my brother remembers. Some people had wreaths on their doors, of course, and we had holly trees so we were already Christmassy. (I still miss not having holly for inside decoration.) One thing I think most people with kids did was to let them decorate the house windows from the inside, either with homemade paper snowflakes, or with ‘snow’ that we sprayed from a can over stencils to make snowflakes, reindeer and Santas on our windows. (I’m sure that stuff was no good for the environment or for our lungs!) These designs would be most visible to those walking by, but then, we weren't in cars as much as many people around here now.

Outdoor Christmas displays here are now sometimes very elaborate. The newspapers run articles on where to go to see the ‘best’ ones or the most decorated streets. I like these best when they are someone’s personal project and not just all blown up plastic snow people from a store, but then I’m not very handy myself, so if I had a yard I might go that route. I now live in an apartment and I must confess that I haven’t put any lights at all yet this year. I will do that tomorrow for sure. Some apartment dwellers here do have really nice displays – my best was a peace sign that I made out of coat hangers one year – not too original, but heart-felt all the same. I’d quite like to have a second tree on the balcony with lights –maybe next year?

Here’s a link to photographs of Christmas displays this year in Greater Vancouver, British Columbia. When my daughter comes home for Christmas, maybe she will take me by to see that Grinch!

Christmas Lights & Feelings - Vancouver & Area (Webshots Family, by jokipeti -Peter Jokan:

For a look at other people's ideas about this topic, click on December 5 at:

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