An ode to Christmas lights

Is there a sight more joyous or one more synonymous with the season than a terraced house all lit up like a carnival float amongst a row of sombre black shapes? I'm talking candy canes, I'm talking snowmen, I'm talking Santa and his eight(?) reindeer on the roof. The full shebang. 

YES, I hear you all cry - there are plenty of festive traditions more joyous than a sodding sixties flat in Elephant and Castle using a whole years worth of electricity to illuminate a neon Homer Simpson dressed as Santa for the duration of December. What about a burning Christmas pudding being brought to the table? What about chestnuts roasting on a roaring open fire? What about a candlelit carol service? All very good points. 

Okay, so there are a few things equally cheering as spotting an illuminated house on the horizon. But of all the festive traditions, the ones that make me feel the most warm and fuzzy always involve light. And while Christmas lights, unless they’re gold tinted and from habitat of course, might not be the classiest element of the season - Christ I adore them. 

Using light to illuminate the world during winter isn't a new tradition either – for millennia, man has been staging dramatic fire ceremonies to ward off evil spirits and drive out darkness. And still today - whether atheist, agnostic, Pagan, Christian, Sikh, Hindu, hipster, royalist, republican, Tory, leftie, Monster Raving Loony, Love Actually lover or loather - all of us use light, in some way shape or form, to celebrate our festivals - whether it be Christmas or Diwali or a weekend trip to Dinerama.

The coldest, darkest and wettest month of the year certainly has the potential to be the most dreadful. But instead, as Andy Williams likes to remind us - it’s the most wonderful. And that wonder comes not, as it does in the spring, summer and autumn, from nature, but from within us: from things we make and build, from traditions we create for ourselves and stories we tell. It’s an entirely man made kind of wonderful - which I think makes it particularly poignant.  

Our use of light is, I think, a symbol of our strength, resilience and tendency toward joy instead of fear. It symbolises a refusal to succumb to that instinct we all have inside of us to accept defeat, curl up into a ball and hibernate until life gets a little easier again. So whether it’s a Strictly-esque sequinned gown, a neon Santa, dazzling firework display, exceptionally large tree, candle lit carol or flaming pudding - I hope your Christmas is filled with light, love and lots of joy. 

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Sarah Barratt