I am hanging out with two friends this past Saturday, riding around Long Island. It is mid to late afternoon when we are finally on our way home. Being near winter solstice, the days are short and it is already becoming dark. Looking around, I inquire about the general demographic of the neighborhood. When I express some surprise of the overall makeup of the area I am asked why. I wave my hand around at the quiet peaceful pre-sunset street and ask if either of my two companions notice anything wrong, which of course they do not. We’re looking down a street with at least twenty homes of spacious lawns, tress hedges with in easy sight and not one house was decorated for Christmas.
Not. One. House.
Even I, who has been in a holiday funk these past couple of years, put up a tree and decorated my living room for the holidays a week ago. There we were driving through a semi-affluent neighborhood, that by my friends accounting had a decent enough Christian/Protestant influence and yet we could not see any indication that we were in the midst of the “most wonderful time of the year”. It took three blocks of riding before we saw one house decorated for the holidays. We could actually count the homes as we rode around before we hit the highway. Considering it was exactly on week before Christmas, it was a pathetic showing. Sun completely set as we’re coming off the highway into Harlem was only slightly more festive as we looked up at the various tenements windows all lit and sparkling. It hit home further when we turned on the radio and it turned out the DJ was taking calls from listeners asking if they felt Christmas was less festive now than in years past.
Being raised with Christian and Jewish neighbors all of my pre-teens life, by December 15th all buildings were ablaze with festive lights and colors. Every block was a mini Las Vegas for a couple of weeks each year in December. You could count the homes that did not have decorations instead of the other way around. It is something that has steadily decreased over the years and I sorely miss it. Several callers to the radio DJ expressed similar sentiments. It was part comforting and part disconcerting to know I wasn’t the only one feeling this.
In my head, I could understand if I was living in a more culturally mixed neighborhood than what existed in my youth, but I‘m not. I don’t know if it’s the depressing economy or a subtle (and disappointing) downturn in society in general that has befallen the holidays over time, but I don’t like it. As I looked out my window earlier this evening and again found myself incredibly disappointed by the near dearth of festive lighting, I found my self desperately wanting to ask …
…Don’t they know it’s Christmas?