Lights glowing at our house

Poor Skyler. Over the journeys back and forth from school these past couple of weeks he’s had to indulge me. He’s had a few early morning deliveries and late afternoon pick ups from Caterham when over the course of the drive, when it it just dark enough, I find I can’t help myself. I can’t help interrupting his air podded social networking sessions on his phone or even his much deserved snoozes to say, “Hey! Hey! Look at those. Now those are some good ones.” As I nearly swerve onto the curb to point out the latest displays of holiday lit up houses and shops.  

The UK may be in multiple levels of lockdown, but it sure is shining. Shining in the darkness to celebrate the season of light. I am here to assure you that, no matter what your faith, gawking at holiday lights is definitely a COVID safe activity, kids. I’m happy to report the brightness comes not just from Griswold family-worthy displays, oh no, there are Hanukkah hanukkiahs(nine-branched candelabra) gracing windows with their lit candles and memories of Diwali diyas lit by Hindus, Jainists, Sikhs and Buddhists less than a month ago. 

At our house it’s Christmas lights which my kids are convinced we should take stock in as they comment on my near obsession with festooning light strings around windows, dangled from gutters, wrapped around kitschy table ornaments and laid across the mantlepiece. While I like the warm white shade of the bulbs for their soft, ambient glow, the multi-coloured strings act as a nod to the trees of my childhood. Back when I was convinced that our tree, so laden with lights, was the perfect beacon for enticing Santa to our home. I was certain he’d be impressed enough to fill our stockings and generously lay out enough presents underneath its boughs for all five of us. Much to our Christmas morning delight, we found the trust well placed and further complimented with the candy canes left hanging amongst our tree’s lights and branches.  

I love the trees of my Christmases past and present, just as I love the memories they evoke. Particularly recalling the drives home from Christmas Eve mass when my parents would take us on extended detours around local neighbourhoods to look at the spectacular lit up homes awaiting the arrival of not just Santa, but Jesus’ birthday. Talk about a rush. Good Catholic attendance to services followed by the light displays then stocking hanging and my dad’s annual reading of Twas The Night Before Christmas. I tried to emulate these precious moments for my own three children —striving to find the perfect balance between fuelling their sense of magic without leading them down a state of self combusting excitement. It’s a delicate process, I’ll tell you.

I’m thinking now how even though my family is no longer racing to end of term Nativity plays or writing letters to the North Pole, I still feel as giddy as a young child when I see the lights. I feel hopeful, too. Longing, not just to share my delight, but to consider how I can be the light. Be the light with a sparkle in my eyes above my mask. Be the light sharing a laugh with silly moments found in videos on social media or over zoom or even WhatsApp chats. Be the light with a card posted to connect directly with another. Be the light sharing festive food recipes. Be the light acknowledging someone’s post when they’ve shared something hard or happy.

Be the light to reach out across the darkness encompassing some of the bleaker aspects of what has unfolded over the course of 2020 or just life, in general. I’m not fool enough to ignore the gravity of worries enfolding people facing health issues, losses of family, friends and jobs, pressures of political change and climate challenges or the knock on mental strains making all these concerns even heavier to bear. There’s a lot of dark to deal with right now. But I’m hoping that the light displays I marvel at will be a reminder to all. Especially as I link the human made light very much with the stars I cast my eyes on in the night sky. I pray, just as I appreciate with awe what those tiny, distant lights can bring to vast darkness, so can I be a light to others.

Finally, in case you hadn’t already heard, I wanted to share that for the first time in 397 years, Saturn and Jupiter will align to provide the world with a brilliant display for us all to enjoy.* Perhaps it is a lucky coincidence or maybe, as my writing teacher and friend, Maureen, always reminds me, a wonderful synchronicity to be recognised and appreciated. A synchronicity to be celebrated and, maybe even discerned with special meaning. It’s been a hard year to say the least but, maybe I think that bright light we will find in the sky on the 21st of December is meant as a gift to us all. To remind us of the power of light, its ability to reflect brightness in the dark and to inspire us that when our lights come together, the result can be spectacular.

May you shine on now and always.

*Thank you, Janet, for sharing the link on FB!