Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

The magic of Christmas lights

HAYUP SA GALING - Nathan Cabello - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - It is hard to imagine Christmas without the lights that twinkle at the windows and living rooms of homes – and at the lobbies of office buildings and all over the shopping malls. Lights are very much part of the Christmas tradition. It is true in the Philippines and in most of the world.

Christmas lights supposedly took from the pagan Yule log of northern Europe, which burned for many days during the dark winter solstice. The light amid the darkness was a symbol of hope. As the celebration Christmas soon took over the public attention from the winter solstice, the idea of having light has stuck.

Perhaps, once upon a time a candle lighted at the window on Christmas Eve was enough to convey that the residents of the house were one with the community in the celebration of the birth of Christ. And, then, out of exuberance in the hearts of the faithful something more than the candle for light was thought of. Lanterns were probably a better idea, because their lights could be colored according to one’s liking.

And out of sheer faith came vanity. People wanted their Christmas lights to be more – much, much more than just lights. Christmas lights began to take certain shapes… and then these began to twinkle like the stars… and move like fireflies.

In the rural Philippines, the ‘parol’ used to be lighted by a candle place inside it. One ‘parol’ hanging at every house contributed to the overall Christmas look of the whole neighborhood. Then, at some point, some households began hanging more than one ‘parol’ – and soon the rest of the households followed.

Today, entire communities blaze with lights – magnificent lights of different colors that twinkle and flow and move, all in ways that challenge the imagination.  Christmas lighting is fast becoming an art form, fueled by modern technology. It is now very hard to relate today’s Christmas lights to the burning Yule logs of long ago.

Gobs of colorful, twinkly bulbs now drape not only the house and the house yard but the whole breadth of the neighborhood. Multi-colored lights permeate shrubberies and dangle on trees. In some places the lights dance to the tune of Christmas carols. It’s magic!

Christmas lights reflect man’s struggle to create something as beautiful as dusk or dawn. These lights are like fireworks in suspended animation – although, actually, some lights mimic the flares of fireworks. Henry Alford, at http://www.travelandleisure.com, uses humor in describing the effects of Christmas lights on people:

“Christmas lights have the curious ability simultaneously to slightly repel us and to put us at ease. At first blush we think, ‘Good Lord, what is this wanton, throbbing blight on the landscape, and what is its potential damage to the world’s energy resources?’ But upon further reflection we decide, ‘Let’s find a parking space, shall we?’”

Putting up Christmas lights has become an obligation of sorts. It’s a form of advertising. Companies go to great lengths to set up Christmas lights that draw attention to their products. Christmas is a great time for commerce.

It’s advertising for homes, as well. The family wants to projects an image. It’s like saying, “This home is imbued with the merry spirit.” Christmas is the season of joy.

Everyone will agree that all these twinkling bulbs help broaden their experience of Christmas. These lights seem to have its charm. It makes one feel merry – without knowing exactly why. (FREEMAN)

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