Enjoy the lights this holiday season

“Joy to the world!…” As an avid viewer of annual holiday light displays, I hold out a hope that high-tech exhibitions setting their lights to the melodies of popular carols will make heavy use of that well-known Christmas hymn.

“Joy to the world!…”

As an avid viewer of annual holiday light displays, I hold out a hope that high-tech exhibitions setting their lights to the melodies of popular carols will make heavy use of that well-known Christmas hymn.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, we sure could use a little extra holiday joy.

The silver lining to the layer of isolation that most of us feel from keeping to ourselves because of COVID-19 concerns is that the near-quarantine lifestyle we’ve been forced to develop will give us plenty of time to work around our homes. And, at the holidays, that labor could mean a multitude of light displays will pop up throughout Stark County.

So, finding displays to view should be a far less difficult task for families to face than it was centuries ago for the wise men wandering around looking for a sign in the sky. They needed to search for the shining of a single star. All we probably will have to do is follow the far more visible holiday glow.

Looking at community Christmas light displays is a time-honored holiday tradition.

As a child, my dad piled his offspring into his Plymouth station wagon each year, waited for mom to slide in next to him on the front seat and we all began our journey over the streets of the small city in western New York where I grew up. Stark County is a couple of states away from that venue, and the modern version of the station wagon is an SUV. Still, the wintertime thrill of seeing exceptional arrays of holiday lights is no less awe-inspiring than viewing dramatic fireworks shows in the summer.

You could travel to see large exhibitions of lights, I suppose.

Oglebay’s Festival of Lights in Wheeling, West Virginia, annually attracts thousands of visitors. And the lantern-lit paths of the Holiday Lights at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, also make that display a popular choice of travelers. In Ohio, “Light Up Middletown” is listed as one of the top light displays in the Midwest.

But, why make that distant trek and pay to be admitted when a variety of free light displays normally are available down the street, around the block, in a neighboring town or at least within the countywide community?

Many of the annual “light up downtown” parties no doubt will be canceled or downsized this year because of virus concerns, but expect to see light displays in the parks where they traditionally are illuminated. Included among the best of those drive-through city park exhibitions is Stadium Park in Canton.

Googling something like “best holiday light displays in …” whatever community you want likely will turn up an illuminating list of neighborhood exhibitions near you that are worthy of inspection.

Many of the displays will have computer-controlled LED lights synchronized to familiar Christmas songs that can be listened to by tuning your vehicle’s radio to an FM station. Almost all will be the annual work of families and friends. And the best thing about them is that the show likely is continuous during evening hours, so you can view the flickering and the flashing at your leisure.

Biblical stories and secular themes are mingled in most community Christmas light displays. Santa Claus rides a sleigh or slips down a chimney near where baby Jesus lays in an animal-filled manger scene. Sheep and lambs and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer may be among those beasts. Overlook the incongruities of the displays and accept whatever message it is that touches your soul.

So, pile the kids into the family car. Pack some snacks and perhaps a thermos of hot chocolate. Tune the car radio to Christmas carols. Then ride around, tailoring your path to a planned route to take in as many special displays as possible or wandering among the residential areas in search of that random glow that results from intense holiday spirit.

Remember, however, that even though during your viewing you are sheltered from the chill of winter night and safe from the attack of random virus bugs because your windows are rolled up, you are not completely isolated from the surrounding holiday world. You still have rules to follow as a responsible community Christmas lights viewer.

“As you are looking at the lights, please be courteous of the others viewing the displays as well as the other houses in the neighborhood,” says NortheastOhioFamilyFun.com. “Remember to turn off your headlights (parking lights are OK), keep with flow of traffic and don’t turn around in the neighbors’ driveways. Let’s make this fun for everyone!”

Now, let’s say it with song and let the synchronized lights keep tune.

“Do you see what I see?…” said the night wind to the little lamb.

“Do you hear what I hear?…” said the little lamb to the shepherd boy.

Lights and music mix in this festive experience. Even during a pandemic, suddenly all is right with the holiday world.