More than a decade ago, I first noted in the pages of the Philadelphia Daily News the battle then underway between the coloreds and the whites. It was a column that sparked considerable reaction. To this day, people will tell me into which camp they fall. My observations had nothing to do with race relations.
Playing social scientist, I'd remarked on a phenomenon that was brewing for years, one with high stakes, where the survival of Christmas as we knew it was in jeopardy.
A little background:
When many of us were growing up, we looked forward to the Christmas season and the holiday decorations. That goes for all of us, regardless of religion. Back then, we celebrated the season by putting up lights on our homes and along our Main Streets. And not just any lights; I'm talkin' those big, fat COLORED Christmas lights. They were red. They were green. They were orange and they were blue. They were bright. They were gaudy and they were everywhere. And they were beautiful. They were Christmas.
But then something happened. We completed a little more education than our folks had attained. Our jobs were a rung higher on the ladder than where they had toiled. And we moved into houses that are a little bit larger than the ones in which we'd been raised. And once we got there, we somehow decided that we were no longer colored-lights people. No, now we were white-lights people.
Yeah. White lights. Petite, nonoffensive, uniform white lights. The lights of power and prestige. The lights of suburban panache and urban glamour. And so the colored lights were banished to the basement, or worse.
I proclaimed that I'd had enough. White lights were boring, sedate, and pretentious, and I no longer wanted to be the sort of faker who displayed them.
And for a decade, I walked the walk. My family hung colored lights. But not this year.
I could blame the change on the trees out front. They've grown in the last decade to the point where they are just too high to reach without a bucket truck. (My wife has a standing order: Any time she sees me on a ladder or with a power tool in hand, she automatically calls 911 rather than waiting for certain calamity to strike.) And so, where the trees are too tall, the lights get hung too low. And the low-lying, random placement of colored lights didn't look artistic. It looked, well, random. The chaos of our lights was further accentuated by the precision and order of our next-door neighbor's decorations.
The tipping point came when my wife relayed that after driving past our home, a friend, Dr. Martin Snyder, derisively referred to our exterior as "Whoville." That was it.
I first put a ladder on the bed of my pickup truck and, with our eldest son, tried to make amends, but succeeded only in making matters worse. While trying to make adjustments in placement, I caused a few of the connected strands to go dark. Then, in a fit of frustration, I tore out the many strands of colored lights.
Alas, it was time for a makeover. And in my moment of deliberation, I spied two elegant, simple, white-lighted wreaths next door. That's when I decided to make a trip to the basement, to retrieve from storage a few strands of white lights that were long ago relegated to second-class status. I proceeded to hang them on our gate. And they look fabulous.
Go ahead, call me a poser. I know some will view this as an act of heresy, a flip-flop akin to a candidate who says one thing in primary season and another come the general. I'm prepared for the criticism. After all, it wasn't that long ago that I angered the white-light legions.
But I'm at peace with my decision. This year proved that we already have too much color bias, whether we're talking skin pigmentation, holiday lights, or red and blue states. Besides, a wise man once said that it's not the color of your lights but whether they continue to glow that matters most. OK, that last part I just made up in a weak effort to be pithy.
What I really want to say is, Merry Christmas.