Brian Mittge Commentary: National News Comes a-Knocking in Lewis County as ‘January Lights’ Go National

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“Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come.”

- Victor Hugo

 

Driving around as our communities dry out from the flood, I’ve noticed that more homes than usual still have their Christmas lights blazing in the darkness of our morning and evening times.

There’s a house around the corner from mine that’s framed in gorgeous white lights. And up a few hills there’s a house aglow in twinkling color.

I’m so thankful for these people who are lighting up the darkness.

It’s an idea I’ve heard people talking about more than ever this year. 

Exactly one year ago today, after I dropped my son off at school on a dark morning and I headed through the neighborhood around W.F. West High School, one house stood out to me, ablaze with its Christmas lights still shining in January gloom.

That festive glow lightened my mood and gave heart to my morning. In my next Chronicle column (and a few since then), I encouraged us all to think about keeping up our lights through the “Big Dark” of January in the Pacific Northwest.

It turns out that it wasn’t a unique idea.

My boss told me that folks in his town of Gig Harbor have been keeping their lights up in January for many years. A former mayor, Gretchen Wilbert, said that people went to so much trouble to put up beautiful lights, why not keep them up and call it “Winterfest”? Ever since then, people in this Puget Sound community put away Christmas-specific decorations on Jan. 1 but keep up lights from sunset to midnight for commuters and late strollers, then back on from 5 a.m. to sunrise for early workers and walkers.

And a year ago, folks in Richmond, Virginia began encouraging their neighbors to keep their lights in January up as a sign of support for front-line health care workers. It’s especially timely as the omicron wave hits our hospitals and medical workers with another surge in patients.

They’re encouraging people across the nation to participate and share a photo of their holiday lights with the hashtag #LightsUp4Heroes.

I learned about that idea in Richmond when a reporter from CNN contacted me a few weeks ago to see if I would talk to her for a story about lights past Christmas.

As the guy who usually asks the questions, it was a little strange to be on the receiving end, especially for a national story. But the story she put together was great. (I know CNN’s political coverage alienates some people, but that’s not an issue here — this story is about humanity, not partisanship.)

You can read the CNN story at www.bit.ly/JanuaryLights.

The reporter has some fascinating insights from Antonio Alonso, assistant professor of theology and culture and director of Catholic studies at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta.

While people of all faiths, or none, take part in seasonal celebrations, I learned new context on ways that the Christmas holiday is celebrated around the world.

He said some Christian faiths extend the celebrations into February with the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord, or Candlemas, on Feb. 2. This day commemorates when Jesus was presented to the temple, Alonso explained. It's the 40th day after Christmas, so some Christians keep their holiday lights up until then, he added.

I’ve heard from one person who said he was keeping his lights up until the time changes.

I’m not saying that, but I do love that people are bringing some light and flair to this dark season.

Thank you to everyone with their lights up. If it’s your think, share a photo with the hashtag #JanuaryLights for all to see and enjoy, or email me a photo.

 

Dad Joke of the Week

The sun gave us a great show during the open and close of the last few days. Here’s a dad joke in celebration.

“I stayed up all night wondering where the sun had gone. Then it dawned on me ...”

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Send your January Lights photos and bad/rad dad jokes to Brian Mittge at brianmittge@hotmail.com