About Christmas lights American style
Well, I hope everybody had a wonderful Christmas and that Santa was good to you. In Arizona, we had to endure an unusual weather phenomenon, a Christmas Eve storm which consisted of strong winds and heavy rain, and which knocked out the power in our neighbourhood. So really, a routine winter’s day in Scotland.
By Christmas morning, everything had reverted to normal. The sun shone from a blue, cloudless sky, and Santa had manfully struggled through the wind and rain to leave a barbeque grill – complete with a red bow – in my garden. And it had my name on it. What a good guy he is.
We can barbeque all year round in Arizona, as opposed to three or four times a year in Scotland. I’ve only ever had little charcoal barbeque grills before. This is a gas-powered model – so bring on the sausages and chicken.
Christmas over here is no different from Christmas everywhere. People enjoy large family gatherings, a lot of food, a lot of gifts, wear ugly sweaters, and have a generally fun-filled time.
There is, however, one noticeable difference, where Americans go further and, to an outsider, take things to extremes – lights.
Houses and front gardens are illuminated in spectacular fashion from early December through the New Year. In some cases, whole neighbourhoods are closed off to traffic so families can stroll round and look at the displays.
There are lawn displays of cartoon characters, nativity scenes, and inflatable Santas. In many cases, householders provide mugs of hot chocolate for the adults, and candy canes for children.
We toured a few places this year and the amount of work people put in is incredible. Not to mention the money involved. Some families must spend thousands of dollars on their Christmas lighting displays, and many have charity collection boxes at their front gate.
The city I live in, Chandler, has a downtown area which is nicely lit up and boasts a curious 60-year old tradition. The Christmas tree centerpiece is made up entirely of tumbleweed bushes bound together. Volunteers collect the tumbleweed – of which there is plenty in the Arizona desert – and build up the tree.
The other hugely impressive display is at the Mormon Temple in the next-door city of Mesa. Every year, tens of thousands of families make a special trip to visit the illumination display there.
It is all a welcome change from Scotland where I remember only a handful of houses being ‘lit up’ – often for charity – during the festive season. That was followed by newspaper headlines that thieves had stolen the charity money, or that neighbours were unhappy that they couldn’t hear Coronation Street for the noise outside. Bah humbug, right enough.
So here are a few shots of Arizona lit up for what they call over here ‘The Holidays’. Perhaps, in true American style, I’ll go and pour myself an eggnog.