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Chicago Street Lights

December 26, 2005

Happy day after Christmas! By now I should be in Portland, but I’ve opted not to bring my computer along. I hate carrying it around the airport, and I don’t really find much time to post when I’m there anyway. When I get home there will be pictures of Christmas, Portland, and, of course, gifted knittings.

Until then I’ve prepared a few automatic posts of a Christmas tradition in my hometown. Fifteen or twenty years ago an electrician concocted a nativity scene out of lights, and set it up in his front yard:

His neighbors were impressed, and the next year they offered up their yards for him to add shepherds and then wise men. Their block started getting a lot of traffic, and more houses got involved, and today there’s half a mile of houses, in the middle of a suburban neighborhood, all participating in the animated light display.

But that’s not all. What started as a nativity scene then grew to tell the Christmas story, and then expanded to tell the entire Jesus story. Yup. Life, death, resurrection, all in blinking Christmas lights. It’s amazing, really. A bit tacky, but truly amazing. And I’m going to share a few shots (granted, the camera, and my photography skills aren’t that great) with you.

A disclaimer before we start—and I hate disclaimers, but sometimes they’re necessary on the internet when you can’t see my expressions and you don’t know my sense of humor. I laugh at this display because I love it. Visiting the Chicago Street lights is one of my favorite parts of the holidays. The overkill of creating a light display of the Lord’s Supper in your front yarn (and yes, there will be a picture) somehow captures the excess of the Christmas season. Why just tell the story of Christ’s incarnation when you could light up the sky with it? And so while I poke fun at these lights over the next few days, know that I also admire them for their originality, their technical workings, their festivity and fun, and the honest faith of the creators.

Most of all, I am inspired by the creativity and community at work in this display. Most communities have their light shows, but most are corporate sponsored, and feature lights designed far away and shipped in. This is completely run by volunteers, in their own front yards. This is community art at its best—the original statement of one block in Missouri. And so, even though it isn’t knitting, and it isn’t nearly as cute as the kitschy crafty stuff I usually like watching on the blogs, I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.

One Comment
  1. December 28, 2005 4:40 pm

    My very favorite Christmas display was one that was done near my dad’s house in Oak Park- it was the nativity done in those plastic figures with a lightbulb insde, with a creche and everything, and there was Santa, standing right over the manger. I guess it was done on purpose, because I fail to believe that anyone is that- I don’t want to say stupid, but maybe confused? Devoid of irony?- but I always loved driving past it.

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