Missing the Northeast: Holiday decorations

I usually use the space of this column to talk about the things I miss about Northeast that either I cannot get or does not exist in New Jersey, where I now live. However, as I write this in my parents’ house in the Northeast, I realize something that I miss, not necessarily geographically but from my childhood.

As I look out the window of my parents’ house the day after the most exciting holiday of the year, snow fills the street as it follows a perfect diagonal trajectory to the ground, making what some might consider a “white Christmas.” There is something missing though, to me at least.

Years ago, the snow used to have a soothing sort of reflection to it, aided by the soft glow of red-and-green or gleaming white icicle lights. However, as I look out my parents’ window, all I see is snow. No glow.

Where have all the lights gone? Whatever happened to the miniature Santa and his reindeer on the front lawns? Can’t anybody even put up a tiny candle or star in the window?

Just a Northeast Thing?

It’s kind of funny. When I first thought to write about this lack of Christmas spirit, it was actually before I even got down to Philadelphia for the holiday. I had wanted to write about a lack of Christmas spirit outside of the Northeast.

As I was traveling through some of the neighborhoods in New Jersey – some of which might be considered rather affluent – I usually drive through to get to work, I noticed that almost no houses had anything as close to a wreath hanging on the front door. Sure, some businesses had hung or displayed decorations – Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa – but, for the most part, every house exuded a sense of some parts secularity and some parts laziness.

Missing the Good Ole Days

However, when I got to Philadelphia on Christmas Eve, the scene was more of the same. And in thinking back over the last few years, I guess things have been heading that way for the past few years.

For instance, I vividly remember driving around the surrounding neighborhoods with my parents to check out all of the houses that had gone above and beyond their decorating duties, either by decking out a tree in every colored light available or constructing an intricate Santa-on-the-roof scene. However, when I was home last year, a quick drive around the neighborhood resulted in very little fanfare and barely any lights.

There was one particular cul-de-sac in Parkwood that we used to always visit because of the “Night Before Christmas” motif that had been set up around the circle of houses. Years ago, there were lights strung around, decorations set up in the middle of the circle and a sign on the lawn of each house that told the whole poem if you drove around the circle. However, in the past few years, whenever we have gone back, full stanzas have been missing and there just doesn’t seem to be the same spirit behind it as there once was.

In addition, although I was too young to remember this, my dad often tells me about taking me to Disston Street in Tacony during this time of year to see all of the decorations. However, he said that in recent years, it isn’t quite what it used to be.

The Hope of Christmas Future

I never want to sound preachy when it comes to…well, anything. But it really is a shame that people don’t get as into decorating as they used to. Now I understand that sometimes it can get a bit much and, with consistently cold weather, it might not always be possible to deck houses in lights and decorations. But there are definitely ways to decorate simply without too much effort, such as sticking a few light-up candy canes in the ground or sticking a few decorations in the window.

Basically, I hope that, when I eventually bring my kids around the Northeast during Christmas, they might have a few decked-out houses, such as my dad had with Disston Street and I had with that cul-de-sac in Parkwood, that help to bring the happiness that Christmastime has the potential to bring.

Missing the Northeast is a column written by Stephen Wilson, a former Northeast resident who moved to New Jersey for work. You can read his column on the last Monday of every month.

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