Friday, December 21, 2007

Lights, Lights, Lights


Being that it's holiday time, and cold, and dark by five, and since we are often cooped up in our home - with a two year old (picture her running away in defiance from a waddling house of a pregnant woman)we are constantly trying to find nighttime activities of diversion.

On a personal level, I LOVE holiday decorations. I have been collecting Christmas tree ornaments since 1998, and get excited about unveiling each and every one of them weeks before we actually buy a tree. I like bluish noble trees that have elegant branches with spacing between, so that you can see the dangling ornaments and lights in its' depth. No fat fir trees for me. I usually ground my ornaments with white fairy lights and gold gossamer ribbon (hee, hee), although there have been a few years that I've brought out the tiny multi-colored lights for a more 'child-like' quality. This year, prepping the inside of our house with holiday cheer filled a few nights with arguments, I mean laughter. Dan and I usually waited until Stella was tucked into bed before beginning the task of trimming our mantel and arches with garlands and twinkling lights. We filled a couple of nights with tree shopping and decorating the home, and officially finished the task last week. Stella has been surprisingly good at not touching the tree, and the only broken ball was thanks to my clumsy fingers.



With our nights now free, we have gone out in search of holiday activities. Our first excursion was to the Grotto's "Festival of Lights", a Portland locale that has been lighting up their wooded glen and stone bluff with nativity themed images and lights for 20 years.


The Grotto is a very religious destination, with both cathedral singing and outdoor caroling, candle lighting, reenactments of the birth of Christ (both by actors and puppets), and wandering angels and St.Nick's, looking like popes, not Santa Claus. Being a more secular soul, I feel both moved and completely out of place in an environment like this. I wholeheartedly acknowledge that Christmas is primarily a Christian celebration, and often wonder what has drawn me to celebrate this holiday when I am not religious myself. My Father is an atheist, yet we always celebrated Xmas, and I feel that the 'spirit' of giving, initially represented by Santa Claus, was always present, if not the customary acknowledgement of Baby Jesus. Now, as an adult, still hanging on to these traditions, I question why, and feel like a poseur. Can we really base an entire holiday on stories of Santa Claus, trees and lights, baked goods, and lots of consumerism? I want Stella to understand both the pagan and christian beginnings of this holiday, as well as the made-up meaning that her Father and I put behind it. I am trying to focus on the spirit of giving, enjoyed time by the hearth with family, and hopefully a genuine thankfulness for the simpler gifts of life. I do want to encourage her own spiritual growth, introspection and exploration, as she matures, and will support her beliefs wherever they may lead her. For now, she has a play nativity scene and can walk around with baby Jesus in her pocket without needing to know much more.
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The above was a little bit of a tangent, because this entry is supposed to be all about surface decoration - lights, lights, and more lights, not a touchy probing of religion and its' holiday relevance, sooooo... back to the superficial!


We enjoyed the lights at the Grotto, but had much more fun at the Portland Zoo on Stella's birthday. Starting at 5PM, the Portland zoo changes from a venue that displays live animals, into a nighttime wonderland of lights arranged in animal forms, with trees and walkways wrapped tightly in an astonishing array of colorful lights. 'Zoo Lights' is all about dazzling color in the black of night, without a hint of religion. There is a choo-choo train ride through a landscape of moving animal images made entirely of LED lights, and vast stretches of park turned into psychedelic savannas, jungles and swampland. We all loved it. It was a great place to take Stella and watch her excitement and wonder at the panorama before her.



Now that we know how much Stella digs lights (I use her as an excuse for my own fascination), we have plans to visit another spot in Portland, Peacock Lane, which is a neighborhood known for it's gaudy devotion to all things brilliant and bright. They apparently have horse carriage rides up and down the street and give out free hot cocoa. I can't wait!

Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, whichever makes more sense to you!

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

How wonderful it is to witness the joy Stella brings to this blessed season.As Dan(and you by now)know that Christmas is my most favorite time of the year.I too love to decorate the tree and fill the home with decorations from all over the world.Your pictures of Stella showed the wonder in her eyes,of which Dad and I miss so much.I hope we will be able to come to Portland for Christmas one of these years and see all the holiday displays.They look beautiful and so much to do.Aren't you glad to be in a place that celebrates this wonderful time.We are happy that you are bringing the birth of Christ into her life as well as opening up the possiblities of other religions.We look forward to more pictures as Christmas day is right around the corner.Merry Christmas to you,Dan,Stella,and baby"no name".Love you all. D&M

8:51 PM  
Anonymous Dad G. said...

What a great magical time of year and to be blessed to share it all with your children is more than full payment for some of the trials and tribulations that we as parents experience.

I'm soooo glad to see you and Dan experience it first hand!!

Dad G.

9:24 PM  

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