The Brighter Lights of Christmas
The switching on of the Christmas Lights is a big event in any English Town. Local celebrities or dignitaries are chosen for the symbolic task which is nowadays accompanied by some entertainment and late opening for shops from the usual five or six o’clock to eight o’clock or so.
As we head into the darkest period of the year with sunset before four pm, and most of us get up in the dark and come home from work in the dark, those Christmas lights give us something lovely to look forward to as we lurch through the gloom.
Most households light up a couple of weeks before Christmas but the shops now light up at the beginning of Advent which usually comes at the end of November. Although there are ancient Festivals of Lights, the recent Christmas light-ups are relatively modern starting with candles decorating fir-trees in eighteenth century Germany.
Electric public lighting came early to the UK and the first `fairy lights’ appeared in the Savoy Theatre in 1881 arrayed on fairies in a Gilbert and Sullivan Opera.
Public displays appeared across the Atlantic in the USA from the 1890’s onward and became widespread over here by the 1960’s. The displays themselves vary from town to town as they do worldwide with some places opting for a subtle look and others for complete exuberance.
Any public shopping area will do its best to entice the customers to stay to admire the beautiful lights and perhaps spend a little more hard-earned cash as the mood lightens.
Below is a picture of the lights at the lovely tiny port of Mousehole in Cornwall, complete with a Christmas Whale. Should you get the chance, there is a wonderful Christmas children’s story called the `Mousehole Cat,’ by Antonia Barber based on a local legend.
It is a really busy time of year for everyone and I hope you get a chance to sit and see the Christmas lights or better still the free lights the stars themselves on a clear night.