One of my earliest memories of Christmas was from the early 50’s. It was the lights. Our little family didn’t have much money. I think we were one of those “beginner families” starting to get a foothold in the years after WW II. We did have a Christmas tree with those strings of lights that would go out if one light burnt out. I learned from personal experience those lights would burn your fingers if you touched them. So I made it a point to leave them alone.
Even with the array of colors on the tree the thing that made the greatest impression on me were the candle lights in the windows of our house. Each window facing the street had a candle with a plastic base that supported three white columns topped with orange colored lights. As a child of about six, I didn’t understand the significance of those candles. I still remember my mother telling me why we put them in the window every year.
First she explained to me how Joseph & Mary had traveled so far but still could not find an inn or a place to spend the night. She told me how they ended up staying in a drafty old stable. Then she told me about how their path was guided by a star and how that star directed the shepherds and Magi to the humble little stable so they could find Jesus, the Christ child. She went on to explain to me that was why we put the candles in the window every year; to let the Christ child know that if he saw our lights that he would be welcome in our home. I remember thinking how cool that would be if he would come and visit our house. I secretly waited to hear a knock at the door.
In those days, it seemed everyone had those kind of candles in their windows too. Then as the years went on, the light displays got bigger, brighter and gaudier, those candles got relegated to the attic or some other unseen place. As I’ve driven around this year I have seen several homes with the candles in the windows again. It pleases me to see them coming back. There is a certain understated elegance in the simplicity of those candles. Just looking at them brings me back to a simpler uncomplicated time. The lighted candles were one of our family’s longest held traditions. I’m still hoping to hear a knock at the door.