“But why do you do the Christmas lights?” Every night on the lead up to Christmas, I am asked the same question in a hundred different ways.
I hear the whisper of the question from myself, as I lay out the props for the night’s adventures once again: Every night for the month before Christmas from 5.30pm – 10pm.
Darwin – our 3m dinosaur. Tick.
Elliott our 2m dragon. Tick.
2.5m Santa with automatic countdown calendar to Christmas. Tick.
The photobooth with glorious Insta-worthy lighting and a huge basket of Christmas hats and tiaras. Tick.
The Santa wooden prop, with the face cut out for kids to pop their faces in for photos. Tick.
The commercial bubble machine (Beamz B1000) that creates a massive bubble cloud at the touch of the remote control and the floodlight to showcase each rainbow hued bubble. Tick.
Checking the stock levels of bubble mix (after we emptied every Big W in a 20km radius). Tick.
The container full of candy canes of every flavour (except mint – because yuk!) for the kids. Tick.
The business cards with chocolates attached for the parents. Tick.
The clocks tick over. The timers switch on, and the lights all leap to life.
It is Christmas magic time!
To the polo-shirted blokes who arrive driving large SUV’s, and who crave a logical answer to the “Why I do the Christmas lights” question, I answer, “We are a home-based Arana Hills web design business and everyone who comes past sees our brand and many take our business card. It is cheaper marketing than taking out an ad in a print magazine, and reaches more people.”
They nod sagely at the response. “Great idea,” they respond, happy to have their logical itch scratched, but not realising that the real reason is right before their eyes.
I can see the question in the eyes of the parents who drive slowly past our house at a crawl. The adults barely glance at the lights, as they grip the steering wheel with a death grip, eager to get the trip over with so they can get back to the TV or their phone.
They are immune to the children’s calls of, “Let me get out. I want to see,” from the back seat, before they move on with their night, having successfully ticked off another house on their Christmas Light drive map.
To them, my answer is whispered, “There is an answer. But you didn’t stop to hear it.”
And then there are the families of all sizes, colours and creeds. Single parents. Same sex parents. Blended families. Extended families. Families and carers of people with disabilities.
Those families pull up and unload everyone from the car or van.
“Mum. Dad. Come see the bubbles,” is shouted at top pitch, by kids whose legs start to race the second before they hit the ground.
They run and shriek with glee through the gazillion bubbles swirling around them.
The parents look on with beaming smiles, before tentatively reaching out to pop bubbles … and then more bubbles … and then more bubbles.
Engrossed in the experience of being surrounded by bubble swirls their eyes are as wide as their children’s as they take in the bubble mayhem.
They smile and laugh with their children at the thousands of bubbles dancing all around them.
Their children get direct eye contact and megawatt smiles from their parent, and the parent shares wonder and joy with their child.
They share a moment that seems to go on forever between them.
They create a magical Christmas memory.
Not one person has been engrossed in their phone while bubbles surround them. Each person is fully present. Each person connects with the loved ones with them.
Then the children find the dress-up box of hats and the photobooth. Every hat must be tried on every child and every parent.
The upside-down Santa’s pants hats are the favourite, closely followed by elf ears and a Frozen tiara.
Everyone laughs together at how silly dad/mum/Auntie/the child looks.
Photos are taken of the children in the photo booth and if the moment presents itself, we take photos of the whole family for them against the twinkling waterfall lights.
Every photo shows relaxed, happy faces. Every photo shows people with arms around each other – holding each other and smiling at the moment.
So why do we put up Christmas lights?
When it all comes down to it, we are not simply putting up lights or marketing our business.
We are creating opportunities for love to happen. For reconnection to occur. For positive Christmas memories to be made.
We create space so that just for that moment the children know that they are the most important people in their parent’s world and they are loved.
We create a positive moment to boost self-esteem and belonging amidst a world that can beat down the most resilient child and family.
But what of the groups of teenagers, and couples who arrive after the crowds of kids go to bed?
For them, we watch them drop the burdensome mantle of adulthood and tentatively stretch into childlike wonder at a cloud of bubbles, and to play and have fun through silly hats.
For them, we create space to rediscover their hidden, soft, inner child and to add a balm to weary souls.
For them, we listen, laugh and reflect that we think they are amazing and wonderful for taking the step to stop and reconnect with themselves.
So why do we put up Christmas lights?
Because everyone needs a tiny magical space every now and again to simply experience joy.
For more lessons from Christmas lights, check out our story about The Gap storm.