Pulling the Plug on the Holidays
I’m on a crusade to get my kids to do three things. Clean their rooms, flush the toilet and turn out the lights. I don't think that it's too much to ask. I follow them around the house picking up socks, flushing and flicking off the light switches every day. I have to. Our electric bill is outrageous. My children celebrate the festival of lights all year long. Wherever they go, they leave an illuminated trail. Lights are on in their bedrooms after they leave for school, lights are on in the bathroom after they brush their teeth, lights in the kitchen, the basement, even the front porch light blazes like an eternal monument to the utility company 24-hours a day.

Yesterday, my husband Harris said he was sure that a UFO had landed in our living room. As he walked up the street, on the way home from work, he saw our house ablaze with lights. Bright light, he said, was seeping through cracks in the eaves and escaping under the threshold. He said that when Lewis came to the door he was silhouetted in blinding lights - like the tyke in Close Encounters just before he was abducted by the mother ship. All this wattage, and we haven’t even put up the Christmas lights ... yet.

Here it is practically the shortest day of the year. It’s getting darker much earlier. But we don’t really notice because there are lights everywhere. We go from our bright homes, to the mall (where it’s always mid-day) and back home where we spend our evenings basking in the glow of the TV set or the computer screen. Even outside, the street lights and city lights obliterate the stars shining in the heavens. If the Magi were traveling today, they’d end up on Rte. 1 instead of at a stable in Bethlehem.

The winter holidays - Christmas, Hanukkah and the solstice - celebrate the victory of light over darkness. But today, there is no darkness. And, without it, I wonder if we can really see the light. Maybe what we need this season is less light and a little more darkness. Instead of trying to cure seasonal depression by shining lights on people, maybe we need to give them a dose of darkness. Scientists have discovered that trees need a balance of darkness and light in order to grow. Maybe people do, too. Maybe with fewer open all-night shopping opportunities, we’d be home all snug in our beds and finally get a decent night’s sleep. Maybe if we turn down the lights in our kitchens and ate by candlelight, mealtime would seem more like a respite from the glaring world and families would linger around the table to laugh and talk. Maybe if we turn out the house lights and stand in our darkened back yards, we’d be able to see the stars.

But why stop there? Why not unplug the TV and instead of watching a Christmas special, make a special Christmas. Build a fire in the fireplace and toast marshmallows, make greeting cards together, bake cookies or read a holiday story out loud. Unplug the computer and the Nintendo and dig out the Scrabble or play cards. Let your kids and their friends swap the Internet for their imaginations. Go to bed early and get up at dawn. Stroll around the block after dinner and stop to look at the holiday lights shining in the night. If you pass my house, and it looks like a UFO has just landed, please stop in and remind me to turn off some lights.

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