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Christmas Without Lights
12/23/2014 3:47:21 PM

By Barney Blakeney

Bah humbug. Here we go again with another Christmas, but I think if it weren’t for all the commercials you’d never know it.

A friend with a new car called me the other night and asked if I wanted to go for a ride. My friend even offered to throw in a snack. I’m always down for that kind of deal - good times, good company and a meal - what more could a single man at Christmas time ask for.

My friend, like me, works at home a lot. So getting out and about is a welcome treat. Also, I was looking forward to seeing the Christmas lights. I’m a freak for Christmas. I’m like a kid in a candy store, the lights and decorations really turn me on.

Last week I noticed not a lot of folks have decorated their houses. Only one guy in my neighborhood has done any decorating, that’s the guy at King and Poplar streets. Joe really goes all out. His house makes you feel Christmas.

My friend is not so big on Christmas. She’s more a Kwanzaa person. So she wasn’t really riding out to see Christmas decorations, she just wanted to drive that new car. We hit downtown King Street to see what kind of action was going on. It was still early. Upper King Street was dead and dark.

There were more street decorations south of Line on King Street, but things still looked kind of dead. We figured the college kids are gone so the throngs of young on King Street was missing.

The City of Charleston really hasn’t gone all out with the decorations this year. When I was a kid back in the 1960s, by this time of of the holiday season there were Christmas decorations all over the place. The city’s fire stations were awesome sights, especially the one on Huger Street. That one was lit up the other night, but not like back in the day. My friend was more interested in crowd scenes than Christmas scenes and there was nothing happenin’ downtown, so we headed West Ashley. Also boring.

I remember, years ago, the houses along St. Andrews Boulevard always used to be a Christmas light show. Not so now. There were one or two homes that were impressive, but by the time we got to Sycamore Avenue, I was complaining about the lack of decorated homes. We rolled through the Avondale neighborhood to get back to Savannah Highway. That neighborhood also was dark. It was depressing.

Rolling onto James Island things were just as stark. A few homes on Folly Roar had lights, but what caught our attention more was the commercial development. That new hospital on Folly Road blew my mind. Talk about your urban sprawl! By the time we got to Central Park Road it was clear Christmas has given way to urban development. If we wanted to see Christmas lights it would be at James Island County Park’s light show.

My friend wasn’t down for that so we ended up at one of the restaurants on Sam Rittenberg Drive. There had been very little to make me feel Christmas up until that point, but sitting in the restaurant was interesting. A lot of young Blacks came through. My friend, who is more outgoing than I, told me that’s where the young folks hang out now days - its not as dangerous as the clubs, the place is open late and you can have alcoholic drinks and grub in the same spot. It was good to see young folks socializing without a lot of drama, but my mind still was on Christmas. I like the holiday season, but I have to internalize it. I have to feel Christmas.

A lot of my friends don’t do Christmas. Yeah, I’m down with Kwanzaa and I understand the folks who point to the winter solstice as the reason for the season. But I figure any holiday that encourages people to love one another and seek peace on earth must be a good thing. And hey, if I can celebrate my birthday, I sure can celebrate the birthday of the Christ Child. Don’t knock mine, I won’t knock yours.

I usually go into full Christmas mode on Christmas Eve. That’s when the boss used to kick out the Christmas bonuses and I could go shopping. It something about seeing folks in that happy frenzy trying to satisfy their loved ones. I feel good joining them. Again, I hate the commercialization of the holiday, but a guy can’t get away without buying a little sump’um sump’um for those really close. I’m principled, not stupid.

The other night I saw a news story about a secret Santa who annually gives away $100 bills to strangers. And there was a story about somebody who paid off a lady’s layaway bill. Now that’s what I think Christmas is all about, doing something for someone in the spirit of love and goodwill.

As I write this, it’s a few days before Christmas. Most houses still aren’t lit up and I’m still not really feelin’ it. But I know it will come. Christmas Eve will arrive and the spirit will hit me. It never fails.

So ya’ll have a good Christmas. And pray for the brother.

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