December 24, 2021
While I used to do elaborate displays when I was director of a camp in Kansas, we have yet to put up lights in Arkansas. Still, Melissa and I have enjoyed the light displays set up in the communities around us. In Kansas we would walk the displays at the local zoo and botanical gardens. The gardens were especially extravagant, with lights timed and set to music as the central feature. In recent years individuals have created computer synchronized displays in their family yards or have coordinated efforts with the other houses on a block or cul-de-sac. Now we usually walk or drive the community displays near us since we moved to Arkansas. One even features a miniature train ride that winds you among the lighted displays that stretch throughout the park. On cold and brisk nights, they offer hot cocoa and other treats for sale at the concession stand.
Hidden in what I call the fluff section of my local newspaper was an article on the resurgence of light displays. Communities and individuals across America have launched displays during the pandemic, and they have become more elaborate each year. A wholesale light distributor in Wisconsin said the reason was that people were looking for something to do, and the displays let them get out of the house. Some of the displays require tickets but more are free to the public and are available first come first served. These displays have been set up for both foot traffic and drive through events. The drive throughs have the advantage of never leaving your car and staying safe (and warm) while enjoying the displays.
The large drive through event is on the rise this year. An Indiana-based distributer estimates there is a 42% increase in popup events hoping to draw on the success of last season. The displays are becoming increasingly intricate and technical. Many of the operators started with lavish shows for their homes and decided to get into the business of creating displays for others. A Texas based firm said the average budget for holiday light displays synced with music has grown to around $500,000. “Everybody continues to try to outdo each other in terms of size, scope and technological complexity.” These events are beyond the capacity of individual families and are run by corporations and municipalities.
Thoughts: Churches have continued to create displays that try to emphasize the “reason for the season” rather than the technical commercialization of lights. When I looked online, I found displays listed from across America. These ran the gamut from a living creche like the one where I work to lavish 12 stage events depicting the story of Jesus’ life, from birth to resurrection. Friends of ours know I collect creche sets and gave one they had found to Melissa for me. It now sits on a table in the foyer as our only Christmas display. Sometimes simple is the true meaning of Christmas. Do the work. Change is coming and it starts with you.