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Raucous, garish and crowded displays of Christmas lights

lights3I LOVE Christmas lights! I admire and appreciate elegant, disciplined displays — a spotlight shining on the Christmas wreath, a string of white lights tracing tree trunks, a red bow on the lamp post. These visuals add beauty to the season and bring joy to many.

What I LOVE, though, are raucous, garish and crowded displays of colored lights and plastic figures. The crazy Christmas tree atop the Vigo County courthouse in Terre Haute makes me smile every time I pass it.

I regularly drive out of my way to view a particular overcrowded and over-lighted yard in West Terre Haute. I think the houses on uglychristmaslights.com are really pretty nice. And if a homeowner has synced the lights to “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” . . . well, it just doesn’t get any better than that!

For me, it’s impossible to have too many lights; when it comes to Christmas decorations, less is just less.

My all-time favorite display was on a three-flat in a somewhat depressed neighborhood of Chicago. Over a period of years, I passed the house twice a day, looking forward to the display early in the season and delighting in it once it was in place. Each year, the residents on the second floor suspended three-foot plastic figures of Mary, Joseph and Jesus outside their window. Each morning when I passed on my way to work, the Holy Family appeared appropriately reverent, as though absorbed in prayer.lights2

By evening when I passed again, the wind would have caught the figures, turning Baby Jesus to face the wall and Mary and Joseph with their backs to each other. By the next morning, the figures would have been righted—until the wind blew again. Then Joseph might have his face to the building while Mary looked north and Baby Jesus defied gravity by turning upside down without falling out of his manger.

For me, this display was a testament to hope. I could imagine the apartment residents arranging and rearranging the figures each morning, knowing full well that they would not maintain their proper positions but still patiently turning them so that they would be properly oriented, if only for a few minutes.

The lights, too, are a sign of hope. They do not eliminate the darkness as much as they defy it, serving as agents of joy despite December’s gloom and inviting laughter despite the personal winters we may be experiencing. Thank God for those who do us this service by lighting — and over-lighting — their homes.

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Sister Lisa Stallings

Sister Lisa Stallings

Sister Lisa serves as vicar of the Sisters of Providence leadership team. After teaching junior high and high school, she spent twenty years ministering in music and worship in parishes in Chicago, Kentucky and Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.

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  1. Avatar Monica Hayden on December 18, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    I also love garish Xmas displays. I don’t miss any “extreme Xmas” shows on TV either. Whatever motivates people to do these things, there must be an underlying desire to celebrate something important and to share their good will with others. I say good for them!

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