There is something appropriate about the thirteenth day of advent falling on Friday the 13th, at least this particular thirteenth day of advent. This one, it just so happens, aligns with our annual family tour of tacky Christmas lights in the area.
Christmas lights were always a big part of my Christmases when I was growing up. I still remember the large red and green lights my dad strung along the roof of our house when I was a little boy like Ian and Elliott. I don't remember them blinking or singing or doing anything fancier than glowing a little extra holiday spirit into our corner of the neighborhood, but through them, Christmas lights became a must in my ideals of celebrating Christmas.
Christmas lights have taken a wild turn the last 25 years or so since keeping up with the Joneses became keeping up with the Griswolds in the world of Christmas lights. In 1989, several million people went to the theater to see Clark Griswold ignite the more than 20,000 lights that covered his house like a blanket in Christmas Vacation. And just like that, Christmas light displays that didn't have Al Gore on the verge of a nervous breakdown and the local electric company making emergency readiness plans for a county-wide blackout, became so Thomas Edison.
Today, it's estimated we spend over 6 billion dollars a year in the U.S. to light up strands of light that, if strung together, would run from Virginia to the North Pole and back a few zillion times. There's no question that's wasteful and a tax on the environment. But there's also something very magical in watching the boys' eyes light up when we pull into a neighborhood that's lit up like something out of the 25th century. I don't suppose it helps much that's we'll be driving our hybrid car on our tour?
The real downside to the night is the tour confirms beyond any doubt in Ian and Elliott's minds that we are not the Griswolds. We have some basic lights in our trees, a yard ornament or two and a strand of lights added along the roof of the front of the house this year. But there is no risk of cars lining the streets of our neighborhood, youthful faces pinned against frosted windows in awe. Relatively speaking it's a pretty tame display; it's just enough to glow a little extra Christmas spirit into our corner of the neighborhood.