Posted by: forgingahead | December 11, 2008

Christmas Lights

For those of you who follow my every word (really, are you quite sure there aren’t better things to be doing with your time?) I want to assure you I had a great run last night!

I made it home safe and sound and had just enough time to cool down, stretch and eat some yogurt before plopping down in front of the tube for a repeat of Bones. Yes, I’d seen it before. But I enjoy the banter between Booth and Bones and so I got sucked in. Again.

And then I fell asleep.

The run did the trick though. It both cleared out of the clutter of the day and was the source of creative inspiration. Christmas lights. I did an informal survey as I shuffled along my 5 mile route. I go slow enough to really take a good look at each house that decked itself or its tree out in lights.

A little background first. I grew up in my formative years (grades 1-8) in the heart of San Francisco’s Richmond district in the 1970s. This was the heyday of the Dickens Fair…a time of harkening back to the Victorian ways of decking the halls.

We decked our tree in white lights. We would pop popcorn and string it on thread alternating with cranberries and trying to not stab ourselves too often. Many of our ornaments were handmade…elaborately painted eggshells, shapes made from woven wheat.

This all seemed entirely normal to a 7 year old. Plus the Dickens Fair was fun. They had copious amounts of sweets and that’s all it took for me to declare a place paradise. My personal favorite were the churros. Yes, a Spanish doughnut was being served at a Victorian-era fair. Gotta love San Francisco.

Here’s what Wikipedia says about the fair…

The Great Dickens Christmas Fair ( has been held in San Francisco, California, since the 1970s. This is the oldest, largest, and most successful of the modern Dickens festivals outside England. Many (including the Martin Harris who acts in the Rochester festival and flies out from London to play Scrooge every year in SF) say it is the most impressive in the world.

See, now I didn’t know it was such a big deal. I saw it more like a big party thrown just for me.

So back to my original point. San Francisco used be a pretty much predominately white lights kind of town. And I bet that has to do with keeping in the Victorian style. Again, according to my favorite resource, Wikipedia says that The illuminated Christmas tree became established in the United Kingdom during Queen Victoria’s reign, and through emigration spread to North America and Australia.

And because the illumination was originally provided by candles it makes sense that when we’re trying to recreate a Victorian Christmas we’d stick with white lights.

But last night on my run (yes, that is where this whole meandering mess began) I noticed that people are using color again! Ok, maybe they’ve been doing that a while and I’m slow. Loads of color. And big bulbs too. According to my super double accurate research, my neighborhood is about 50/50 for white lights versus multi-colored lights.

And every single last one of them (yes, even the lime green rope lights wrapped around the stair banister of one house) beautiful. And festive. And cheerful. And uplifting to this late night runner.

Go Christmas Lights!



  1. My preference is for the white lights. The multi-colored stuff (especially in copious amounts) hurts my eyes.
    That Dickens Fair sounds like fun. Do they still do it?

  2. What a lovely run you had and a great way to get into the spirit of the season. Go Christmas lights indeed.

  3. Christmas light runs are the best!! I had one last night as well 🙂

  4. i like blue lights. the white one are great too. a line of each, blue and white, entertwining into a mesh of beautiful color surrounding a warm Balsam Fir would be my perfect Christmas tree 🙂 with angels and stars to line the once lonesome branches for company…

  5. Could you please put Bert on assignment for me? Pretty please? I want to see!

  6. I’m so glad the colored lights are coming back, even if they’re cheesy. I got sick of the white lights. I saw one house that had both the big bulb colors and the small light with colors. It looked gorgeous.

    I love Christmas lights. My dad and I used to play this game when we’d drive where we’d count the number of houses with lights on our respective ‘sides’ of the car. Whoever counted the most by the end of the ride won. Seems so simple, but it was the best. 🙂

  7. I’m a white lights only type of gal. And always have REAL candles on the tree (my German heritage).

    My favourite memories though of Christmas are of when my dad would take my sisters and I on a Christmas lights tour on Christmas eve for an hour between when dinner ended and church began while my mom stayed home and “cleaned the kitchen” — i.e. played Santa. Maybe we were naive or just really wanted to believe in Santa, but we never caught on to what was going on.

  8. Sounds like a great run! Way to clear your head out in the mix of it all.

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