Christmas spirit lighting up (and falling from) the sky
By BILL MICKELSON
Central Kitsap Reporter What's Up Arts & Entertainment
December 22, 2008 · Updated 9:58 PM
What’s Up braves the storm on the search for the best Christmas Lights in Kitsap.
Nothing says Christmas quite like 4-by-4ing through 6-to-9-inch snowdrifts on a brittle winter night, fishtailing down the empty, rutted road to the beat of Christmas Carols.
Thus was the situation in which I found myself this weekend, on the traditional Christmas Quest — looking for the Best Christmas Lights in Town. Only instead of Christmas Carols, I was listening to hip hop on KEXP’s Street Sounds. Full disclosure.
And, of course, being “your source for arts and entertainment in all of Kitsap County,” I was looking for the best lights in the entire county (a ridiculously ambitious, self-assigned task) during the biggest snow storm in years, with freezing temperatures and high winds, in a sturdy, sleigh-like all-wheel-drive AstroVan with candy canes and cocoa and snow boots and mittens and beanies.
It was almost like an entire Christmas Season in an evening — only without all the presents and stuff.
Now (as I’m writing this piece) I’m smoking a corncob pipe, staring out the front window at fat snowflakes falling on kids walking by in groups with sleds and snow gear, and big smiles.
There’s nothing quite like a foot of snow to bring out the spirit (or the Scrooge) in people. It’s better than gifts for some, worst thing ever for others.
I haven’t seen this kind of snowfall since I lived in Wyoming. And I’ve never seen as many people out walking around in Bremerton as I have these past few days. Counting summer days. It’s strange.
Snow storms have weird affect on people around here. A beautiful kind of weird, though — weird like the tradition of stringing Christmas lights up all over the house.
Houses covered in Christmas lights have become common place around Christmastime, more common than snow in some places. It’s a long-standing ritual for some. It’s something that I’ve always admired, but never quite understood.
It’s been a family tradition of ours to drive around Christmas Eve and check out all the lights. We all like to look and “ooh” and “ah,” but what makes people put them up in the first place?
I’d always imagined it probably had something to do with that big star in the sky in the Christ story. The tradition being to light up the house like the star lit the sky, or some such symbolism.
Then again, maybe the whole thing started with some Clark Griswold type who went overboard one Christmas, bought way too many lights for his tree to handle and wound up stringing them all over the outside of his house. Then, the next year, his neighbor took it even further, in the spirit of not-to-be-out-done.
Myself, I live in one of, like, four dark houses in all of Manette — possibly one of the most lit-up neighborhoods in all of Kitsap.
We live right down the road from the famed Candy Cane Lane. And I’ve got to say, I feel like a total grinch for not having an inflatable snow glow in the front yard, or red-lighted candy canes marking the path to the front door or lights strung up on the roof. Something. Anything.
At least these snowdrifts make the outside of the house look a little more festive. At least we’ve got a tree inside. Well, a fake tree.
The other night, Santa came by on a fire truck, and while he handed my kid a candy cane, he whispered in my ear and said the house had better start to show a bit more spirit before Christmas Eve if we wanted him to stop by.
Which leads to another possible origin of the Christmas light tradition — the same logic many-a-kid has undoubtedly used in tandem with their best pouty face to get their poor old man out in cold, hanging off the edge of the roof, stringing up the Christmas Lights — “How else will Santa find our house?”
But alas kids, the brightest lights I found in Kitsap, illuminating the entire sky at the east end of Poulsbo, led, sadly, to Walmart — which is another Christmas Story entirely.
But those don’t even count, because those aren’t Christmas lights, they’re parking lot lamps. Besides, Best Public Display would’ve probably gone to the 21st Century LCDs strung up all over the Bremerton waterfront anyway.
If we would’ve been keeping score, that is.
However, my decidedly over-ambitious quest to find and rank the Best Christmas Lights in Kitsap, amounted to more of a Tour de Kitsap featuring some of the most luminous and storied displays in the county (see map) — starting around 7 p.m. at Candy Cane Lane all the way up to Port Gamble, back through Kingston and Poulsbo and Silverdale, along the Tracyton waterfront and on down to the south end of Port Orchard, back to its shoreline drive and back through Gorst, making it to the Bremerton Harborside by midnight.
Along the way, I found quite a few of the Best Christmas Lights in Kitsap as well as a silent moment with the Christmas Spirit sliding sideways down a hill in North Kitsap and some amazing sights like 50,000 lights on one house, a 9-foot tall Santa Claus and a snowman riding a motorcycle.
And by the time I arrived at the end of the tour, I had, indeed, found the true meaning of Christmas Lights. Much like the kids and their sleds, the sheer joy of driving fast through snowdrifts and the snowman on the motorcycle — houses ablaze with neon lights are just another sign of the season, another piece of the Christmas Spirit.