The Rabbi’s House on Christmas Eve

When I was a kid, my parents always took us out to look at the lights on Christmas Eve. I don’t actually remember envying Christmas, but according to at least one of my parents I did express a wish to celebrate it when I was five or so. They explained that while it was not our holiday, we could enjoy some parts of it; and that was always our rationale for going out and looking at the lights. I want to pass that on to my kids: Being Jewish and in the minority doesn’t mean having to be defensive.

I remember going to Maple Bluff, outside Madison, because they always had good light displays. That was before I turned six, and the name still means magic to me. Later I remember hot chocolate, and sometimes being bored (as a teen — what do you expect?) but I also remember thinking that I could string lights more elegantly than many people; I had definite ideas about what I liked and didn’t like and wondered if I could get people to pay me for designing their Christmas lights.

This year my two sons, ages 5 and almost 7, are finally old enough to really participate. “Look at those lights!” “Ooh, blue.” “See that Santa over there?” “Those pretend candles in the windows are really pretty.” We showed each other the lights, and I remembered how my sisters and I would call “doorbell!” when we saw a house otherwise not lit up but with a lit doorbell. It won’t be long before our kids will be calling “Look at those red and green and yellow lights!” for stoplights and tail lights and things like that, trying to fool us.

There’s an amazing trio of houses all lit up and decorated where Route 66 leaves Route 2, which we slowed down to really appreciate. I think they outdo themselves each year. But the first and last lights we see on this journey are on the tall pine tree at the farm across the road. It was very sweet. I hope it will really become a family tradition.