The Displaced Nation

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A trip to light fantastic: 5 places to find brightness in the winter gloom

Last year, I confessed that my ideal Christmas would be spent far away from the snow, ice, and frigid temperatures. If I wanted a white Christmas, I’d be perfectly happy to use foot-searing sand as an alternative to snow, and spend December in the Caribbean.

Twelve months on, and I haven’t changed my mind. I still feel a twinge of envy when I read about Australian friends’ plans for a summer Christmas. No matter how displaced the idea may be to a Northern Hemisphere mind, a Christmas barbecue on Bondi Beach seems very appealing as I look outside into the foggy dusk, the sun already setting at not quite 4 p.m.

Lots of people wouldn’t agree. Below-freezing temperatures and dull skies, for them, are all part of Christmas, or Hanukkah, or whatever form their December holiday takes.

Yet December holidays, at their most fundamental level, are festivals to raise people’s spirits from the gloom that comes with winter solstice light deprivation. Think about it: isn’t there something perverse about refusing a Caribbean Christmas getaway while covering your house with electric lights à la National Lampoons Christmas Vacation? Wouldn’t a beach holiday at this time of the year just be a simple case of cutting out the middle man?

Sigh. As I said — most people don’t seem to agree with me. So for those who would rather have your winter light minus the vitamin D production, here are some places you could consider visiting this month:

1. Longford Road, Melksham, Wiltshire, UK

Electrician Alex Goodhind paid £700 for his local electricity board to dig up the road outside his house and install an industrial strength cable to support his Christmas display of 100,000 lights. Actually, the number of lights varies according to which news report you read, but it’s certainly on a par with Clark Griswold’s efforts: without the special cable, Mr Goodhind was unable even to boil his kettle while the lights were on.

After a two-year absence, during which the neighbors must have been relieved not to wear eye masks at night, the lights are back in full force. Proceeds from the display go to local charities.

2. Paris – The City of Light

OK, so that’s a bit of a cheat, but nevertheless the Christmas lights on the Champs-Elysées are spectacular.

For wackiness and dubious use of performing animals, the prize goes to Galeries Lafayette with its animal-themed Christmas displays, where an elephant dressed in Louis Vuitton switched on the festive lights this year:

3. Umea, Sweden

Although you might be perfectly positioned to see Nature’s own Christmas lights — the Northern Lights — if you live in Umea, you might also be more prone to light-deprivation depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. In December, the sun rises around 10 a.m. and sets before 3 p.m.

Acknowledging the problems this causes for residents, Umea’s electric company has installed ultra-violet light in 30 bus shelters around the town, replacing illuminated advertisement boards with the energy-boosting light therapy.

In case any Jersey Shore cast members are thinking this is a great idea — these lights don’t give you a tan.

4. Winter Festival of Lights, Niagara Falls, Ontario

With three million tree lights turning the Falls into a sheet of ‘watercolors’, and 125 animated lighting displays, the Winter Festival of Lights has become “a tradition for over 1 million local residents and visitors from around the world” according to its website.

We’re guessing that the Canadian cold weather distracts you from thinking about global warming and the effect those three million lights might be having on it.

5. And finally…

If going out in the cold to find winter light displays seems like too much trouble, let me point you towards a wonderful site I found while researching this post. has a comprehensive list of Griswold-like lights at private homes, giving the street address, how many lights/inflatables at said address, and the number of years of tackiness-expertise by the house owner .  The houses are mainly in the USA — of course — but Canada, Australia, and even France get a mention.

Added bonus: Probably a good site to check if you’re house hunting in summer.


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Image: MorgueFiles



3 responses to “A trip to light fantastic: 5 places to find brightness in the winter gloom

  1. Janice December 5, 2012 at 8:27 am

    We have one house near ours that you can not see the house for all the Christmas inflatables in the front yard. Nor do they have any front yard left with all the decorations. It’s a tiny house so it looks that Christmas exploded on it.

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