"Lights All Aglow"
By Capt. Fred Davis
Published: Saturday, December 10, 2016

Because the Christmas season starts right after Halloween, with just a brief pause for a turkey dinner, shoppers have been out in earnest. They see an ad about a bargain and race off to get in a line to pick it up. We understand with some of the new tech items, lines form in the middle of the night. One of the good things about the Christmas season arriving early is it is helping set aside what’s left of the political uproars.

Christmas decorating also starts early (some leave their lights up year-round) and everyone is busy putting fun things in their yards to entertain all of the passersby. Many communities have homes that compete by building larger and more elaborate displays each year. I have had the good fortune of visiting some of the areas where the competition is so fierce, owners ask for donations to help pay their electric bills. The down side is, everyone loves to drive through those neighborhoods to see the lights and it becomes a traffic jam.

The Christmas tree sales outlets are already busy too and many people will have their trees up and decorated with two weeks to go until the big guy stops by. How do they keep those live trees alive?

One year I was in Arizona for Christmas and I so enjoyed the luminaries that descended from mountaintops. They are small, sand-filled paper bags with a candle inside a mason jar placed inside. Many people place them along their driveways leading to their homes. Early accounts about this practice say there was hope the lights would guide the spirit of the Christ child to one’s home. The placing of luminaries has spread throughout many areas of the world and they are often presented at various celebrations.

In Florida, lighted displays are popular with businesses that compete for prizes to dazzle the public the best. Some communities have live activities in their yards with music and elves dancing around decorated trees. If you have never seen a decorated palm tree you are missing a great sight. Hours of risky labor go into stringing lights along the length of the tree and out onto the palm shrouds. When the wind blows, the branches wave all alight.

Although I can’t say I miss the snow, I must admit Christmas in Michigan with all the lights sparkling and reflected in snow drifts is truly beautiful. I can still recall that drift outside my front door that was so deep my sister disappeared inside it.

In spite of being told there are only a few items left, many good sales are still available. Small, local stores often feature items you’ve never even dreamt of giving as gifts. Those with a handyman in the family can shop around the tool section and find some new items to encourage getting needed jobs done around the house. Here is a tip for the men trying to shop for their spouses: skip the kitchen equipment (unless an item was especially requested). Get her a nice outfit to wear for New Year’s Eve and then take her out. A warm, snuggly robe would also gain some appreciation and throw in matching slippers.

If the ladies want a tip for shopping for the man in their lives: think about what he likes to do in his spare time (does he have any?). Fishing, boating, skiing, hunting or loafing while watching football or hockey games. Go online, pick up a catalog or visit an outdoor shop and look for any of those topics and you will find the perfect gift. As for me, I like dinning out so gift cards to restaurants are great.

As I see it, these last two shopping weeks could be fun just looking for something special, different or unexpected. If you have a little extra cash as you head into locations where the person with the red kettle stands swinging a bell, toss in a few coins. Someone needy will benefit from your kindness.

Enjoy the season and try not to let it get too commercial.

Listen to the Christmas carols and enjoy well-wishers saying, “Merry Christmas.”

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