Probe: Jan. 1, 2002

December 31, 2001

QUESTION: Now that the year 2001 is drawing to a close, what will you miss the most about the old year as we move into 2002? — Celebrant, Calexico

The Christmas lights! In the midst of the gloom and doom since Sept. 11, people started stringing the lights on their houses and shrubbery right after Thanksgiving. It was a testament to their faith in Christmas and its magic aura.

When we were younger and more egalitarian, we thought people should forego the ostentation of Christmas lights to feed the hungry or send money to missionaries in some far-off land.

Since then, we've come to realize that putting up the lights is a way of sharing the joy of Christmas. That's the secret of the celebration. Most people can, if they choose, participate.


By joining in the party, you validate the holiday. Those people who skip the holiday trimmings miss the fun. Draping blue lights over a shrub unleashes the creative spirit.

That does not include us. We never get around to stringing lights or even putting up a Christmas tree. We've been there, done that, but we enjoy the efforts of others.

How many times have you heard, "It just doesn't seem like Christmas!" It isn't Christmas until you make it Christmas.

Christmas is both a community and a personal event. It takes a whole lot of people spending time, effort and money to make it happen. And maybe a few bah! humbug types.

During the gasoline shortage in the 1970s, we were led to believe that we were down to our last barrel of oil and when that was gone, we would all be sitting in the dark.

People who wasted energy on colored lights were seen as wastrel clods. One year, most houses stayed dark in December. Even Las Vegas dimmed.

As we got used to more expensive gasoline and higher electric bills, we started turning on lights again. Soon whole blocks glittered like Vegas.

It seems to us there were fewer lighted houses this year. Maybe some people didn't feel in the mood for turning on the lights in view of the devastation in New York.

But we noticed that those who did really pulled out all the stops, putting out a lifetime collection of bulbs. We like the Standiford yard on Sandalwood Drive in El Centro.

Commercial Avenue is a dark street, but several houses east of Imperial Avenue light up the neighborhood with their multicolored lights and lift the spirits. As we write this, we have the lights on Commercial shimmering in our head.

When we go home tonight, we will pass a small white house on the corner of Holt Avenue and Ninth Street in Holtville decked out in blue and white lights. Pretty.

By the time you read this, most of the lights will be down, packed away in boxes until December 2002. We'll miss them, but it's time to get on with the New Year.

Bye-bye 2001, and good riddance. It was a rotten year. Hope springs eternal. Happy New Year!

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