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Holiday Lights in the Park


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There’s something about the first snowfall that signals to me, “Oh, ok. If you insist on coming, I guess I can tolerate you as long as I can enjoy some beautiful holiday lights at the same time.”

It doesn’t feel right, somehow, to see Christmas lights without snow.

So now that it snowed earlier this week, I’m excited for events like the Rice Park Tree Lighting Ceremony and the Holiday Lights in the Park near Lake Phalenmy neighborhood—in St. Paul.
 


The Rice Park event appeals to me in that there will be holiday music to put people in a festive spirit, there’s an outdoor skating rink this year (maybe I'll get to watch some future Olympians practicing their triple Salchows!), there are fun Santa activities inside Landmark Center, and there will be a tree as tall and bright as the iconic Rockefeller Center tree in New York City. The tree lighting will take place at 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26. The park will be lit 24/7 from Nov. 26-Jan. 1, 2012, with the skating rink open another month through Feb. 5, 2012.

I’m anxious to check out the Holiday Lights in the Park (running from Nov. 22 to Jan. 1, 2012) for two reasons: my husband and I went during the very first year they had this event, before we became parents. This year, I want to return with my two little boys and see the lights through their eyes. The vehicle fee is $10 on Fridays and Saturdays, $8 Sunday through Thursday, and it’s worth every penny—not only because it's an all-volunteer event, with all proceeds going to charity—but also because there are a lot of really creative light displays. And call me lazy, but it was fun to see the lights and hear the music without getting out of the toasty warmth of the car. Which brings me to the second reason I want to go: It reminds me of when I was a little girl on Christmas Eve and my dad would load up my brothers and I and we’d drive around town, looking at the houses all decked out in Christmas lights. There used to be one cul-de-sac in nearby Maplewood that did the “Twelve Days of Christmas” that was pretty spectacular. 

When we’d return home, we’d hear the ringing of a bell and my mom would come out of the living room and announce, “Darn it! You just missed Santa!” (it never crossed my mind as being weird that my mom would always come up with some excuse to stay home) and we’d have presents under the tree, which we opened that night. My brothers and I never experienced a traditional too-excited-to-fall-asleep Christmas Eve with presents waiting to be opened Christmas morning, because on Christmas morning we would get up and make the long drive to my grandparents’ house in Wisconsin. (Yes, I know this isn’t the norm, but it was perfectly normal to us.)

Every Christmas Eve, I looked forward to the moment when my dad would announce (after a traditional dinner of oyster stew) that we’d better get in the car and look at the lights so Santa could come. That was the best drive all year. Driving slowly past Christmas lights on a cold winter night reminds me of those drives, my dad at the wheel, my older brothers and I peering through the frosty windows at the holiday lights outside, looking for signs of Santa's sleigh in the night sky. The anticipation of what was to come was almost as exciting as what actually came. 

It’s funny how the older you get, you don’t remember the gifts you received, you remember the traditions, the meals, the laughter, the love, the excitement. You remember the magic of the season. Seeing holiday lights reminds me of that magic. I hope I never outgrow that feeling. 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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