Dig out the tote of outdoor Christmas lights, the dusty wreath, the manger scene, the inflatable Santa and whatever else you have hidden in the depths of your basement or garage.
Let’s light up our yards, city blocks, small towns, farmyards, barns and grain bins. Open the blinds and display the Christmas tree in all its beauty in front of the window.
With the money we’re not spending on gas, vacations or social outings, most of us can afford a slight uptick in our electric bill to keep Christmas lights on longer and expand our display this year. When your display is complete, snap a picture or capture a few seconds of video and email me at email@example.com by Friday, Dec. 11. We'll compile the photos for agweek.com and have a few featured on AgweekTV the weekend of Dec. 19.
My daughters asked one morning when I was dropping them off at school what we were doing that evening since there’s no school activities for the next month per North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum's order. I blurted out, “Let’s drive around after homework and supper is done and look to see who has Christmas lights up early.”
The wheels started turning for my 12-year-old, Elizabeth, and she asked, “Could farmers decorate grain bins?” We decided a star on top of a grain bin would be wonderful to spot on our nightly drive.
As a child, I helped my grandpa string the big bulb lights around three evergreen trees each year before Christmas. We would replace the burned-out bulbs from the year past and use the same strings year after year. A loader tractor is needed to string lights on those trees today. I miss those old lights. And, most of all, I miss decorating the farmyard with my late grandpa.
We’ll all likely miss some traditions this upcoming holiday season. It won’t be the same amid a pandemic, but we can all spread joy and light in darkness. And we can start new traditions.
Buy a few new strings of lights. No matter how difficult 2020 feels, don’t be a Scrooge. Finish strong with a bright display in front of your home, in your window, on your deck, on the top of your grain bin or across your barn. Brighten up the trees in your yard.
Then, load up your family and go for a drive. Gaze in child-like wonder at the beauty of the lights and decorations.
In early 2020, the darkest of days for me this year, I stayed in the Denver area for three months to be with our son during his spinal cord injury rehabilitation. While there, I learned Denver has a tradition of keeping exterior Christmas lights on and Christmas trees lit up in windows through the start of the National Western Stock Show in mid-January.
My first column of 2020 shared how the lights of Denver give me hope in a new year. The flickering lights soothed my numbness and feelings of helplessness, inspiring me to think of our family’s future. I wrote the Denver lights column long before I knew anything of coronavirus. But I’m guessing many of you now feel more numbness in the final months of 2020 than you did in January.
While hanging Christmas lights won’t end the pandemic, it symbolizes how you can be a light in the darkness. Shine on in the darkness.
Hang up your Christmas lights this week. Share a picture on your social media platform of choice and invite your friends, neighbors and family to drive by for a visit. The Pinke girls and I will be taking frequent weekly drives to find new displays to brighten our final days of 2020. I hope to see many of your bright displays emailed to me before Dec. 11.
Pinke is the publisher and general manager of Agweek. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or connect with her on Twitter @katpinke.