Season’s Greetings

It’s hard to believe it’s that time of year again, especially with the warm weather we’ve had, but it’s Christmas time again, and in observance, I’ve tweaked the site’s colors.

Of course, hovering over all of this is the knowledge of what happened in Connecticut on Friday. I’m finding myself compartmentalizing things. Friday night, we were watching the news, and then it started to seem repetitive and exploitive, so I had to turn the TV off. This morning, I saw a clip of Saturday Night Live’s open with a children’s choir, and I just felt myself welling up. For my mother, there’s an additional resonance, since it brings back memories of the Christmas my cousin died. I can’t begin to imagine how the parents feel.

Unlike last year, I have not been running ahead of schedule this year. I did get the card out last week, but shopping has been a bear this year- I’ve been stumped for a couple of people on my list. I think I’m finally nearly there, though, and I’ve got a couple of packages arriving tomorrow.

Friday, we put up the tree, and yesterday, we went up to Rockport to do a little shopping, have lunch with my brother, and just generally bop around. The lights and the tree in the town center were pretty, but I wasn’t able to do much with just my Gorillapod. I’m actually thinking of going up there again later this week with tripod in hand (and no companions complaining that they’re cold/bored/hungry).

Season's Greetings

Season of Lights

As we move into December, I’m beginning to see more and more Christmas lights. I’ve always loved them, while being thankful for the fact that we have no outside outlets and therefore can’t put up our own outside lights.

Driving around, there are several different kinds of lights to be seen. My favorites have always been the multicolored lights, with no white lights mixed in. Personally, at least for now, I prefer the old-fashioned incandescent types. They seem warmer, with a better distribution of color. The reds and oranges are brighter, the blues less prominent. The newer LED lights seem to be too heavy on the blues. Their blue lamps are quite bright, and  their oranges and reds less bright in comparison. I suspect that this is something that will get fixed in time–the manufacturers need to make light strings where the warmer colors are brighter.

My next favorite are the all white lights, which seem to be more fashionable right now. They tend to come both as shrub lighting and as a dangly effect on the house’s roofline. White lights are starting to come in both incandescent and LED varieties; for white lights I dislike the LEDs less than the multicolored LED lights. Old fashioned lights are warmer, and the LEDs are a cooler, whiter, white, but that somehow seems appropriate for a winter decoration. You sometimes see a mix of the two– one part of the lights are incandescent, and another part LED. I’m not sure this is always deliberate, and you can often tell the two apart, but sometimes it works well.

Another kind of lighting design, usually on trees, is lights all of one color– all green, all blue, all red. You usually see this on public displays, like in a park, though one of the houses in town is doing this too. I’m not so fond of single color displays, though they can work if different trees have different colors.

One thing that doesn’t work at all, in my opinion, is mixing colored lights with white lights. Do one or the other, please. Rather than appearing as another color, the white lights dilute the effect of the colored lights.

Finally, the last kind of lighting display, and probably the most old-fashioned, are the window lights. This is what we’ll be putting up in a few days. The lady who used to live across the street used to drape strings of the small multicolored lights in her front window; we have the candle lights. I’ve seen red, blue and green candle lights, but they always seem kind of cold and dark; I like the white or orange lights best.

Whatever the color or how they’re arranged, the lights are a welcome relief from the darkest nights of the year.

Happy Merry Christmas Holidays

Rockport Christmas tree
Christmas Tree, Rockport, MA

So, it’s that time of year.

Actually, for some reason, I’m way ahead of schedule, which feels weird… and a little unsettling. I got the cards out a few days earlier than I normally do, and aside from gift cards and stocking stuffers, all my presents have been gotten and wrapped. I keep wondering what I’ve forgotten.

A “Holiday” Tree?

There was a bit of an uproar this year in Providence when the mayor insisted on lighting the official “Holiday Tree.” It seems to me there’s enough stupidity on both sides that I had to say something.

First of all, as a general matter, I can’t get worked up about a “war on Christmas”. I’m not religious, but I do enjoy the secular parts of the holiday. Vienna Teng has a wonderful song on Warm Strangers called “The Atheist’s Christmas Carol” which is pretty apt. On the other hand, there are people who don’t observe it, or who observe other holidays, and I see no harm in using a more general greeting if you don’t know enough about the other person to be sure they celebrate Christmas. I make my own Christmas cards, and I usually have two versions of the card—one that says “Merry Christmas”, which goes out to most people on my list, and one that says “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings”  that I send to people I’m either not sure about, or who I know don’t celebrate Christmas.

That said, I think it’s disingenuous to be referring to a “Holiday Tree”. Trees just aren’t part of Hanukkah. The Christmas tree is a distinctive part of the current day Christmas celebration, and to call it something more generic, isn’t being respectful of other traditions, it’s just being politically correct. In fact, I wonder if it’s disrespectful: disrespectful of Christians, who feel their traditions are not being recognized, and disrespectful to Jewish people, who sometimes feel they have to fend off the “Christmas-ization” of Hanukkah.

For what it’s worth, our own Christmas tree gets decorated tonight.

Christmas Season Bike Ride

One personal annual tradition I’ve observed sporadically is a bike ride along the Minuteman Bike Path during the Christmas season. I started it by accident, one Sunday in December several years ago, when I stupidly forgot that the sun sets around four in December, and didn’t leave the house until around 2:30. By the time I reached Bedford, and was heading back, it was already getting dark…and found to my delight there were Christmas lights at several points along the path. It’s a hard thing to time right — one year I started about half hour too early, and didn’t see anything.

This year, I seemed to hit it right, but there weren’t many lights as I remembered, and I froze my feet off. So much for that annual tradition…