Did people in your neighborhood decorate with lights? Did some people really go “all out” when decorating? Any stories involving your ancestors and decorations?
No family member that I recall ever had outdoor Christmas decorations. Terri, my cousin who is 18 months younger, and I have talked about our fond memories of getting in the car with our grandparents and driving around to look at Christmas lights. We would sing Christmas carols, Jingle Bells was our favorite, as our grandpa drove. We would pause only long enough to ooh and ah at some lights and continue with our singing. This was long before the days of seat belts (mid 1960′s) so we would move from one side of the back seat to the other to get the best view. These tours were during my first 7 Christmases and again when I was 9 & 10. After that, I lived too far away from Oklahoma to visit often.
I used to ask my parents to put up some outdoor Christmas lights but they always said it cost too much. Instead, we would drive around the neighborhood. Sadly, during the energy crisis about 1973 the outdoor Christmas lights stopped being used, at least where I was in Durham, NC. Also, the trees there are so tall, they must be hard to decorate nicely. Then during Christmas 1978 when my family visited Oklahoma I went with my cousin and some of her friends to see some Christmas lights in a place known locally as Ski Island (the neighborhood no longer does this). We drove from Moore area to the north side of Oklahoma City and I was in the back seat of a Trans Am (I think) and it was unbelievably uncomfortable. However, I was very impressed with the lights and amazed that people could afford to have so many decorations.
When my kids were not quite 2 years old we began visiting a house near us that went all out with the decorations, my kids called it “Santa’s House”. The man had previously worked at the Dayton Tire Plant with my husband. Each of the December Saturday nights before Christmas the young man dressed up as Santa and sat in his front yard for the neighborhood kids to sit on Santa’s lap and have their picture taken. He made all of his decorations himself and we purchased a Santa from him in about 1995, it stands about 24″ high and is made from a fence post and still sits at our door during the Christmas season. Even today, we still drive by his house several times during December to enjoy his lights.
My husband began decorating our house and our pine trees with lights (we’re the only ones on the block with pine trees) while our kids were still in elementary school. I was amazed that it wasn’t really that expensive and I absolutely loved coming home each evening seeing these lights at my house. He only put them up for a few years and he no longer does it. So, we’re back to driving to others’ homes to see Christmas lights. Here in Oklahoma a lot of people go to the Festival of Lights at Chickasha, which we’ve done a couple of times and it is beautiful but the heavy traffic causes it to take hours, which I do not enjoy. I’m much more satisfied to take a detour into a neighborhood on my way home.