Saturday, December 5, 2009

Advent Calendar - December 5 - Outdoor Decorations

Did people in your neighborhood decorate with lights?
When I was a kid growing up in Norfolk, Virginia, almost all of the houses in our neighborhood had some lights on them at least! There with those with just a single strand placed around the front door. Others were hung just inside the living room windows, to give the appearance they were hung from the outside.

Did some people really go “all out” when decorating?
And then there were the houses with lights around every eave, window and door. With lights strung every branch of every tree or bush! And there were those that had giant lit up Santa’s or Frosty’s, or Santa in his sleigh being pulled by those infamous 8-tiny reindeer! Or the beautiful Nativity Set’s! Oh how we enjoyed those!

It became a tradition in our home to go for a ride, at least once, during the Christmas season, just to see the Christmas lights, and to compare the decorations from one house to the next! Sometimes we would ride for a couple of hours just viewing the multi-colored wonders!

Any stories involving your ancestors and decorations?
After I was grown, I once asked my Grandma Dreher if she or her family had put up outdoor decorations during the Christmas season. She said that her parents did when they got older, but not so much when she was a child. Not lights, but they did hang pine boughs above the doors outside, sometimes with red ribbon, sometimes with scraps of whatever cloth was available. She said that Grandma Banet [her mother] had cut small boughs and placed them on widow ledges as well. Sometimes they placed a candle in the windows. Not the crude electric candles we see today, but real candles. Especially during the War. It was symbolic of lighting the way for the soldier of the house to find his way home, should he become “lost”.

Grandma did say that her parents put up a tree inside, but no lights. They were afraid of electric lights on the tree when they became available.

My Grandpa Dreher’s family, however, came from Germany, and were among the first to decorate for the season, Grandma said. She said they would go all out with what they had available. Large wreaths for the doors, and bits of ribbons and lace bows for the trees outside. They didn’t have electric lights available use, but they made due with what was available for them! And she said the house was always a special wonderland at Christmas.

My Great-grandfather Banet passed away in 1945 and Great-grandmother Banet in 1958. So, I never got to know them. And my Great-grandfather Dreher in 1925 and Great-grandmother Dreher in 1932, again my never having known them. So I only have ideas of their homes at Christmas through the memories of my Grandma Dreher in her last few years [1906-1989].

I asked Daddy about decorations in his home when he was growing up, he said they had a tree, but that was all. No outdoor decorations. He said an occasional neighbor would decorate the outside of their home, no lights, but with ornaments, ribbon or paper chains, etc. on the trees outside.

I have always felt I was born a century too late, having had an attachment to all things mid-19th Century. However, I am so glad that I have lived in an era of electrical lighting at Christmas! I never miss a year of watching the tree being lit in Rockefeller Center on television. When that huge tree is lit, I am always fascinated! Each year swearing it is more beautiful than the year before! Or the lighting of the tree at the White House! That massive tree is so glorious to behold when lit!

Or even the meager little string of lights that I place around my front porch! When the sky goes from light to dark on a mid-December’s evening, and there’s a light falling of snow, and I turn on that little strand of lights, my little home suddenly takes on a different look. Suddenly, it becomes a humble beacon to the celebration of the birth of the One who made this season all that it is! How glorious is that?

1 comment:

Sherry - Family Tree Writer said...

Hi! It must be a tradition for many families to take trips to see the Christmas lights around the holidays. Sometimes, ours began as early as Thanksgiving evening now that my mother has gotten older.

I particularly loved your last paragraph about being a beacon of light! Isn't it true, that even the humblest of abodes takes on a different look with snow and Christmas lights!

Have a very Merry Christmas!