Saturday, December 18, 2010

"Bring the Torch, Jeannette Isabella"

A lot of what makes Christmas so magical and beautiful happens at night.  If you are like me, when darkness falls and the lights come on, that's when I get all misty-eyed over how pretty everything looks....the tree, the mantle, the Nativity, the bright and shiny figures that fill every flat surface.  All the glitter and glow fills the house and it feels like Christmas.

I think it's always been like that; all the way back to the time when the first person decided to put candles on the tree.  That must have been beautiful!  Dangerous beyond belief, but beautiful!!  The earliest trees that I remember in our house had several strings of lovely multi-colored bulbs.  Mom used silver tinsel (meticulously draped one or two strands at a time) on the tree for years.  The lights reflecting on the tinsel multiplied the lights exponentially.  Gorgeous!

The lights were about the size of a night light bulb, but they were pointy.  Man, did those things get HOT!  Mom was vigilant about never leaving them on if no one would be home, which was a very good thing, I think!  We were very fortunate though; we never had any type of incident!

The only other thing that was lit each year was the Nativity set.  It was set up inside a wooden "stable" (actually it was made by Gramps to be the Train Station for someone's train set, I don't ever remember having a train set, but that's not important; somehow it morphed into our stable.)  It was a rather odd structure with two windows of different sizes and a large arced opening on the front.  It was painted silver with green trim around the odd-sized windows....all in all a rather strange stable but Mom used it every Christmas that I can remember.  She would use a string of the tree lights to drape all around and in the stable and one the roof.  There was a thick layer of "snow" on the roof but the cotton....uhm....snow was always cleared away from each individual bulb.  If you squinted a little bit the whole thing looked lovely! Again, never had an incident.  Even after all these years that still amazes me!  The Nativity set and stable lives with Little Sis now.  I don't know if she uses it.

The appearance of the little "Italian" lights was perhaps one of the great safety inventions ever!  Overnight, EVERYBODY switched over to those little lights.  They hardly even got warm, not nearly as dangerous!  Every mom in America breathed a huge sigh of relief!!

The first year we were married we bought a real tree, but that was the only year we did.  We got a beautifully shaped artificial tree that we used for years and years.  We loved that tree!

When we were first married we had lights on the tree and that was it.  I considered myself lucky to have that.  You see, the Big Guy was in charge of putting the lights on the tree.   It was a major exercise in how much angst and swearing and throwing things can one man display and still manage to get the job done and remain married and alive!!  Every branch HAD to be lit in just exactly the "right" way.  It took several sessions of work  and stomping away in a snit to finally get it done!  It took me years to learn that the best thing I could do to help was to get OUT of the house when he was working on it!  (Believe me, sometimes being a perfectionist, is a curse!)

It always looked beautiful, but I would have gladly traded perfect for peace!!  Nevertheless, he took the job seriously and wouldn't let anyone help; nor would he relax his standards in any way.  He would just swear and yell and scare the bejesus out of Ratchlet and I until he got it the way he wanted it!  Then we would proceed to do the rest and have a beautiful, happy, and wonderfully lit Christmas.
Of course, every year we got a lot more lights than we ever did before because each year we added a new something that lights up.  Christmas became a festival of lights!  Beautiful!

After we moved to Austin, our lovely tree finally gave up the ghost and we had to replace it.  So we got one that had the lights actually ON THE TREE.  Lots of lights already attached!!  O joy, O rapture!!  No more strings to untangle, no more trying to find the burned out bulb that knocked out the whole string, no more hours and hours spent getting the lights "just so", and best of all, no more yelling, swearing, or angst about lighting the tree!!  O what a happy day!!

So now we have 2000 lights on the tree.  We have lighted wreaths, lighted garlands, lighted figures, lighted outdoor figures, lighted make believe candles,  lighted angels!  When the December electric bill comes, I don't even blink....just pay it and say, "Ah well, its for Christmas!"

I wouldn't change a bit of it.  It's just the way it is.  Lights and Christmas are a tradition, albeit one that is a lot safer than just having a few lit candles on a real tree.  That's a great example of mixing tradition and technology! 

"Bring a Torch, Jeannette Isabella" was the only way of lighting the original manger.  Now, over 2000 years later, we still bring lights of all sizes, shapes,  and colors, to celebrate that same event, the birth of one small baby boy who changed the world and brought light to us all!!


  1. Aw Shucks! I got misty eyed just reading this. We had those "hot" lights too. And the tinsel.
    I also remember the song, "Bring a Torch." I was maybe six or seven, it was Christmas Eve at the church. Mom was responsible for the Children's portion of the program. I don't remember all of it, but I remember that "Bring a Torch" was the very first solo I ever sang in front of a crowd. I wasn't scared. I just stood by the piano and sang my little heart out. I've been singing every since. Isn't it funny how, almost 60 years later, I still remember that night like it was yesterday. I still love that song. We just never sing it anymore.
    I really appreciate your blog, Mellodee. It seems like I can relate to your way of thinking. Keep on sharing. And have a wonderful Christmas.

  2. I remember those big lights on the trees. And that dang tinsel. Man, how I hated putting that on the tree. And we would find pieces of it around the house all the way up to Easter! My favorite time was those years we had the silver tree with the rotating multi-color light. Good times!

    Now we also have a pre-lit tree. Best invention since chocolate. I hated putting the lights on and taking them off. Now we just fold up the whole thing and stuff it in a bag until next year.

  3. Your tree sounds beautiful! Would love to see a picture!

  4. I live with a perfectionist too, and I always wonder how we've stayed married this long, since I am more the "get it done as quickly as you can and don't worry about perfection" type. As always, I was smiling all the way through your post, and your memories and thoughts about the Christmas lights brought back memories and thoughts for me. (We did have one of those big colored bulbs burn a hole in the carpet - we didn't realize the light was touching the ground until we removed the tree and found the hole. We were really lucky there wasn't a fire!) I always feel like our house looks so dreary when I've taken down the Christmas decor. Life has been more hectic than usual at my house (as it probably has been at everyone else's house), so I'm behind on my blog reading. I did want to be sure to get over here and wish you and your family a wonderful Christmas. laurie


Thanks so much for leaving a comment. It's really nice knowing what you think!! Besides, comments keep me from feeling like I'm here all by myself!! :)

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