I live in  a Christmas Lights neighborhood. I am not talking about a neighborhood where a few homes decorate. I am talking about a neighborhood where almost EVERY home decorates.  Our local police department has planned a route through our neighborhood that is publicized on our homeowners website, in  the local newspaper, and pretty much anywhere you  can stick a flyer.  Starting on Thanksgiving until the week after New Years  thousands of people will go through our neighborhood wondering “Where do these people store all this stuff?”

When people find out where I live they inevitably ask “Did you KNOW about the Christmas lights? ” I often reply something along the lines of knowing it and living it are two different things. Quickly followed by “We love it !” when I see the shadow of suspicion pass over their eyes that maybe the object of one of their family traditions is not a joyful  participant.

Do not misunderstand me. I love the sound of horse drawn carriages going through my neighborhood and the sounds of children singing jingle bells and the occasional yelling of “Merry Christmas” from a car full of revelers .   I love that my Labradors want to wear their jingle bell collars and for an entire month try to prance like the horses they see passing in front of our house.  I think it is cool my stepson has spent his entire childhood seeing his Dad get into a competitive Christmas lights frenzy. I do think the tour buses and helicopters are a bit much.

The best part of living in a neighborhood  committed to a tradition is the amazing sense of community it generates.   From  November to  January everyone is outside talking and laughing.   We know people by their decorations.  We are bonded by this tradition.  

A few years ago some vandals trashed one of the beautiful displays a few blocks away.  My stepson, Sage, was horrified he couldn’t believe someone could be so mean spirited.  He was  worried the people who owned the house would lose their Christmas Spirit.  He said if that had happened to our decorations we would never stop crying.   He  wanted  to do something to make our neighbors happy.  We baked some cookies and took them over in a decorative tin with a note from Sage. He had just mastered writing and was so proud of his note. “Don’t be sad. I am so sorry someone was mean to your lights”

Our simple neighborhood tradition taught  a six year old child empathy and compassion.  He had learned a sense of community. He felt like he was a part of something bigger.   More importantly, he wanted to do something to make things better.  Knowing it and living it are two different things. 

 This Holiday season our family and community traditions take on greater significance.  As we collectively watch in horror the unthinkable tragedy of the Sandy Hook Elementary shootings we have become  a community united in grief.  Regardless of our religious beliefs or cultural identities, we are a community of parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters who all want our children to grow up in a  world of  peace and love.  If we embrace each other with compassion and understanding our children will learn this behavior.  We need to teach our children to think of others.  We need to teach them the importance of giving.  We need to help them see they are part of something greater. If we honor our peaceful and loving traditions, our celebrations of life,  our children will learn to uphold these values. 

 God bless and Merry Christmas.  Dr  Sandra Peak

Sandra Peak, M.D.,  joined Cook Childrens Physician Network in Lewisville in 2004. Dr. Peak enjoys gardening, yoga, and boating and in her spare time can be found at the lake with her husband Jay, stepson Sage and the world’s most amazing Lab, Sugar Mae.