Christmas began as a religious holiday celebrating the birth of Jesus. In the USA, it has evolved into a grand year end holiday season that spans most of the month of December. It has become a month of good cheer, a time of giving to others, a time to reflect on peace and charity. It has also become a huge shopping event where people spend a significant part of their paycheck purchasing gifts for their children, for their family members, for their friends and for less fortunate strangers.
The shops and stores all across the USA capitalize on this "season of giving" by promoting the purchase of their merchandise. This is most apparent in the numerous Christmas decorations that you can see in every store. Some of them are very extravagant and rather beautiful. Each shopping mall or large department store features its own Santa Claus dressed in fur-trimmed red suit and sporting a bushy white beard. Children stand in a queue awaiting their turn to tell Santa what they wish to receive for Christmas.
On a less commercial but equally festive note, the Christmas decoration on private homes are quite a spectacle. Most families in the suburban bedroom communities and in the small towns scattered across the country decorate their homes for the holiday season. This is especially popular in the northern states where winter typically produces beautiful white snow-clad landscapes. It is also popular in some of the southern states, but colored lights on palm trees and on cactus plants do not produce the same atmoshere.
I live in a suburban "bedroom community" near a larger city. In our neighborhood, about nine out of ten houses are decorated for the holiday season. Some of the houses have a few simple pine wreaths adorning their windows. Other houses have colored lights on their trees and shrubs or along the eves of their houses. A few of them have lighted figures of Santa, reindeer, snowmen or other Christmas caracters on their front lawns. At least half of the homes are decorated with multiple strings of colored lights with several thousand tiny bulbs.
As you drive down the streets of my neighborhood after dark, you are constantly entertained by this panoramic vista of decorated homes all sparkling with myriads of tiny colored lights. When the ground is coverd with a blanket of pure white snow, the community becomes a fantastic wonderland of light and color. It is an awesome spectacle.
Most neighborhoods have at least one fanatic that goes over the top in decorating his home for the holidays. We have one such fanatic living a few streets away from me. His house, the trees around it, the shrubbery on his lawn, his fence, and his roof are all decorated with strings of colored lights. There are at least twenty thousand tiny bulbs glowing around his home every night. In addition, he has giant lighted figures of snowmen, reindeers, christmas carolers and assorted characters festooned about his lawn. On his roof, he displays a full sized lighted replica of Santa complete with a sleigh filled with gifts and ten reindeer. From dusk until midnight, he blares christmas music from speakers.
His house has become a landmark for visitors from miles around. Nearly every evening, there are cars of families with children parked along the street ogling this colorful extravaganza. His electric bill for the month of December must be huge.
You might think that this is a unique phenomena. Only one such fanatic could exist in any city. Yet, I know of at least a half dozen similar houses scattered throughout various neighborhoods in the surrounding area.
I know this festival of lights has little to do with the birth of Jesus. It can be tacky and over the top. But I love this unique Christmas custom. It is a beautiful phenomena that occurs for only a few weeks during the middle of winter, then disappears for another year.