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Woster: The lights and luminaries bring the Christmas spirit

It really did add to the Christmas spirit for some reason. When I’d walk up the street toward home in the twilight after work, the inviting, festive lights on my porch lifted my spirit.

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Many years ago, when we lived in Pierre, Nancy bought luminaries for our porch rail, and we were the talk of the town.

OK, not the whole town. The neighborhood, for sure. I strung the lights on the railing of our curved porch. Nancy placed alternating red and green bags over the lights. The luminaries put the finishing touch on the stately, ribbon-wrapped and wreath-bedecked columns of the porch. Many people commented as they met us in stores and on the downtown streets.

My friend Bruce Huxford, who played string bass when I strummed rhythm guitar in a big band, told me he was saving bags from fast-food joints for the next time Nancy wanted to swap out the Christmas theme. Bruce, who died several years ago, was a jolly old soul, needing only a floppy, white-trimmed red hat to be the spitting image of Santa Claus. His snowy beard and huge smile shouted Christmas joy. He said our luminaries shouted that, too. I found pleasure in his pleasure.

I wasn’t sold at first on decorating the porch railing. Nancy got the idea after we visited my little sister. She had luminaries along her sidewalk. They really did give her home a festive look. I wondered, though, if she didn’t worry about vandals. She lived not far from campus in Brookings. While it was a relatively quiet neighborhood, any number of people passed by, day and night. One poor choice by one passerby would put her luminaries to ruin, I said.

My sister said she didn’t care. Well, she did, but not enough to refrain from putting out her display. In so many words, she said: “Look, it gives me great joy to see them. It adds to my feeling of Christmas. I’m not going to let the worry that someone will wreck them prevent me from having that joy. If some mean-spirited or thoughtless person tears them down or steals them, I’ll just buy another set. I’m not going to live in fear of something that might not happen when I get such pleasure from my luminaries.’’


Nancy bought into that way of thinking immediately. We had no sooner unpacked from our visit to Brookings than she was ordering herself a set of luminaries. When they arrived, we put them out and flipped the switch. From the living room window, it was a sight to see. It really did add to the Christmas spirit for some reason. When I’d walk up the street toward home in the twilight after work, the inviting, festive lights on my porch lifted my spirit. I can’t explain why. The luminaries were simply a fancy version of a porch light, but they reminded me of the season we celebrated, and they made my heart glad.

In spite of my sister’s words, I had my doubts the first year we strung out luminaries. We lived on a busy corner, with one street leading toward the Capitol building and the other running north to the Riggs High School parking lot. Vehicles and pedestrians passed regularly. I figured we’d lose at least the bags, if not the entire string of lights, before Christmas was over.

We never did. In all the years we lived in that house and lit our porch rail with luminaries, I think we had one bag taken, and I can’t be sure of that. The first year we awoke one windy morning and saw that half the bags were missing. They’d blown across the street and tangled in a neighbor’s bushes. We learned a better way to secure the bags. The time we actually lost one? Maybe it wasn’t a mean-spirited passerby. Maybe we hadn’t secured it properly.

I’d prefer to think it was our mistake. Like my sister, I found joy in that simple string of lights covered by plastic bags. It was a little enough thing, but when we finally sold the place, the buyers asked if they could keep the luminaries. We agreed.

That new family put up the luminaries faithfully each Christmas season. Somehow, that pleased me as much as if we still lived there. The Christmas spirit is hard to explain.

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