Every year before Christmas, I make a pilgrimage of sorts to my childhood neighborhood of Dyker Heights. There I see the extravagant, over-the-top display of Christmas lights and decorations that adorn the mini-mansions and homes in this neighborhood. It is also a time that I feel a special message come to me as I walk the streets, absorb the mood, and reflect on the impressions I receive . Each year the experience is completely different.
The first effect of seeing so many softly colored lights against the dark of night is a sense of euphoria. The world is completely different and as I walk closer to the heart of Dyker Heights in the 80 Streets, there is a temporary lapse of all sense of past and future. Every sense is focused on the present moment.
The ordinary becomes extraordinary. Trees that light up the night suddenly seem a possibility.
Even the mini-mansions are transformed into castles where anyone can live like a prince or princess in a happily-ever-after land.
This year the displays did not have as many animated figures with music and sound effects playing. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer appeared quite often looking very cute each time.
There were other holiday themes like the Nutcracker and the Wooden Soldiers that silently stood guard outside of homes and driveways. Unlike past years many of these figures were not mechanized.
One theme that was very new for me was seeing so many star shaped lights woven around the branches of the tree. This year the trees seemed to be the main focus instead of the homes, although these too were elaborately lit. It was as if the entire world was a garden and forest of light.
As I walked down the streets another thing I noticed was that the crowd was less intense and frenzied that last year. In 2014 I went on a Friday night as a soft drizzle fell. Busloads of people were streaming into the area making it impossible to find a single space where it was possible to stand still and take in the beauty of the displays. I wonder if that was because crowds want to be amused and prefer animated figures rather than a static display they need to take in and think about?
As I met the same people again and again walking up and down the blocks we started conversations or took each other’s photos. All of the natural defenses were dissolved for a little while. It’s when I saw these angels that I realized this is what a heaven would be like. A community of kindred spirits longing to be in the presence of this peace and goodwill that can only come from the Creator. I know realists would say there is some kind of psychological effect taking place in our brains as this colorful stimulation creates some sense of childhood memories. Or perhaps it is the pleasure in this extravagant display overrides all intellectuality as dopamine levels rise in our bodies. Whatever, the effect is very real and I wish we could call this kind of openeess and harmony at will at any time, especially during the difficult times we are living through.
I think this was the message I was waiting for. That Christmas is the turning point of the year. Light returns to the world. Light always banishes darkness. Each of us has a special light to shine. If we were to shine and reflect back that beautiful light to each other the world really would be a different place, even if it is only evident at certain times. I felt such a sentiment of being at one with the people that evening. I think if we all try very hard to hold on to one Christmas moment where we feel this way we, too, will be born anew and face the New Year with inspiration and confidence. No fear, no dread. Only anticipation and a willingness to make our vision work for a better life ahead.
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