The second stanza of Poe’s magnificent poem, The Raven, describes the weather of this month: “Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December.” But our modern celebration of Christmas often defies the bleakness with a show of light. As a youngster, my family would go on a “light tour” during the month, and for the past few Christmas Eves, I have gone to church and then taken a long light tour with some friends and family members. For any of you who live in my patch of northeastern Georgia, my folks voted the town square in Dahlonega as their favorite light show, but there are plenty of cheerful lights in Helen, Cornelia, and in downtown Athens, also. Gainesville and Clarkesville are trying, but are not quite as successful. What makes Dahlonega the winner is the small size of the town square and the abundance of lights. While we circled the old courthouse over and over, we saw people parking and walking around. Some posed in an empty sleigh, set up near the visitor’s bureau, ready for everyone’s Kodak moment.
Recently, I read a seasonal feature story about communities using lights to brighten up the lives of their neighbors. The most affecting of these stories was one of a youngster who was losing his battle with leukemia. Having been sent home to hopefully enjoy one last Christmas, at the age of two years, little Dax’s neighbors lit up the entire neighborhood, even though it was only October, so he would have plenty of Christmas to see. Yes, they decorated early, just in case he did not live until Christmas Day. The gesture was a welcome one for the sickly young man and his parents. Dax got to see his final Christmas, including the light gifts of his neighbors, because he lived until December 30 of 2009. As the article pointed out, decorations on the interior of a home are for the occupants, but decorating outside is a gift to others who pass by.
When you are out looking at lights, and I hope you will look for them in your neck of the woods, don’t be impatient, as some of the folks are on my road. Across from my home, there is a brilliant light show that is either treasured or mocked by locals, depending on their “Scrooge Factor.” A few nights ago, a car had slowed to a crawl to look at the illuminated decorations, and another vehicle ran up behind and began sounding its horn. Maybe the driver of that second auto was in a hurry, or maybe he just did not understand the gift of light in the bleak December.