A Rough Guide to Christmas Lights in the City

High rise lights – These are often the simplest, smallest, hardest to spot, and usuallly the most boring. It involves draping a string of lights on your balcony because that’s the only place visible to the outside world, who has to squint up from a vantage point 100 feet below. These lights are purely symbolic. They say, “Look, I’m trying!” Other than that, they have no real aesthetic value.

[If you look closely, you can see a string of lights in the center of the picture.]

Working class urban lights – These are my favorite. These are the little decorations and lighting efforts that exist in the close-knit sidewalk proximate neighborhoods in older parts of the city. These homes, sitting as they do at a nice balance point between density and private property, allow for the most intimate encounter with the lights themselves. Often it is fences or tiny yards that are filled with lights awkwardly strung up, or dim faded plastic Nutcrackers. Other features of these kinds of lights are great variety and idiosyncratic placement.

[Classic old school lights from St Paul's North End.]
[Another North End example. You can reach out and touch these candy canes from the sidewalk.]

Upper class urban lights – These are also the most boring, in nicer ritzier neighborhoods of the city. Often what you’ll get here is a single huge pine tree festooned with perfect lights equally interspersed at 4.6 foot conic intervals, fake candles placed tastefully in windows, or a single evergreen wreath on a door with white lights embedded inside. These lights look like they came out of a Home and Garden catalog, lack personality, and serve primarily to increase property values.

[St Paul's Summit Avenue: very fancy!]

Inner ring suburb lights – This is where you find the truly manic light decorations, Christmas light extravaganzas of mind-blowing ridiculousness. Something about these smaller suburban homes in aging neighborhoods combined with boomer consumerism at the right time to create the classic Clark Griswold / Homer Simpson scenario: roofs entirely covered, blinking plastic sleighs, music blaring out over a neon-lit fake snowy landscape. Here you have the ideal yard / sidewalk / income ratio, and it leads to terrible greatness.

[This example I found on the internet from South St Paul.]

Second ring suburb lights – This is similar to the above only the yards have grown, the sidewalks have disappeared, and the plastic crap is a bit less crappy, all of which are changes for the worse. You basically have to drive around in your car for long distances to hoping to come across someone who bought the Lowe’s #2 décor package. People, some of whom are in high school, rent limos expressly for this purpose. (Or else you get crazy stuff like this. Who cares which city this is located?)

[Oy vey.]

Exurban lights – Can you even see them from here? Why bother.

[Lights in a church steeple in Minneapolis' Marcy-Holmes.]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Here is list of synchronized to music Christmas light displays in Minnesota: