There aren't many 'good memories' from my childhood, but this is certainly one of them.
When I was little, it seemed as if nearly everyone in the neighborhood decorated their homes for the holidays. We would marvel at the lights, excited to see the houses lit up and to see our Dad light our home. Everything took on a magical appearance.
My Dad would load us into the car, after dinner, and drive around the neighborhood to see the lights. There was a development of new homes a few blocks from where we lived and we would go out there and look at the beautiful houses. There was one lady who lived there that everyone knew as 'Peanut'. She had a beautiful ranch house with a big picture window that took up a whole wall of her living room. She was an incredibly creative person, always decorating her window, reminding you of a fancy department store window.
At Christmas times, all her shrubs and small trees outside would be covered in white lights. Her Christmas tree would be center stage in the big window, and it too would be decorated with white lights. On her front porch, bathed in spot lights, would be a giant snowman on a swing that actually swung.
The snowman was made of chicken wire, each of the openings stuffed with crumpled tissue paper. The swing was attached to the underside of the porch roof, consisting of pine cone garlands and wooden plank. It was motorized somehow (I never understood how it worked), so that the swing actually moved forward and back.
There were woodland animals on the porch along with red velvet bows, birds and shiny garlands. We would park next to her house and just sit in awe, wiping away the steam our breath had created, from the window.
When I became a parent, I continued the tradition of taking the yearly 'drive' to look at Christmas lights, preparing travel mugs of hot chocolate and heading off across the bridge to see Candy Cane Lane, a 2 block neighborhood where EVERY house was lit, lights were strung back and forth across the street overhead, Christmas music was piped into the night air, starting on Thanksgiving day and continuing until New Year's Day.
Some of the houses have animated displays in their yards, others have elaborate lighting and from December 20th until Christmas Eve people from the neighborhood dress as Mr. and Mrs. Claus and elves, handing out candy canes to the cars full of people who slowly creep up and down the streets, oohing and aahing at the wonder of the neighborhood.
Our home is always lit, I strive to be the 'Peanut' of my neighborhood, for the little kids that live around us. I enjoy the decorating as much as the driving around enjoying other homes.