Mittge Commentary: Let’s Keep our Lights Shining Through January

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As Christmas celebrations finished over the weekend, I know that many proud residents will consider it their duty to start taking down their lights and decorations. If not this weekend, something inside tells us we ought to do it by the New Year.

I humbly request that we collectively reconsider. Instead, let’s keep our lights shining brightly through the bleak midwinter.

We are still in “the big dark,” as some call western Washington winters. It’s dark when we leave for work and it’s dark when we get home. Even after last week’s winter solstice, we still have barely eight hours of daylight squeezed between nearly 16 hours of darkness.

Christmas lights are a beautiful gift to everyone passing by. That’s true when they went up a month ago, and it’ll be true after the holidays.

It’s why I proposed last year that people leave their lights up at least through mid-January, and ideally until the end of January.

At that time, as days get longer, the twinkle of Christmas lights can be stowed away with a “job well done.”

Until then, we need all the cheer we can get.

I know that people want to avoid the stereotype of being “those people” who leave their lights up all year. But taking lights down the instant Christmas or New Year’s concludes is a habit that we can and should change.

I’d like to humbly suggest that we collectively declare our area to be a “county of light.”

Let’s invite passers-by on the freeway to see our lights aglow for the next month. Perhaps some of them will even detour off the interstate for some brightly lit visual respite from the gloom of the season. And it’s so much more enjoyable to drive through our local neighborhoods with their lights twinkling merrily.

Those of us who try to live out our Christian faith are called to be people of light. We can help declare that not only in our words and actions, but by keeping our literal lights shining.

And those without religious motivation can still proclaim the pride of our self-sufficient but welcoming rural lifestyle by keeping a friendly light shining for our neighbors and passers-by to gather cheer during life’s storms.

We can even still acknowledge our desire to “tidy up” after the holidays by putting away yard inflatables and Christmas-specific decorations (snowmen, Santa Claus, the Grinch, etc.) while keeping up the lights.

I’m heartened to know that I’m not alone in this idea.

I recently chatted with Ben Kunesh, who lives west of Chehalis and works at Burnt Ridge Nursery in Onalaska. He said he’s in thorough agreement on keeping lights up well past the holidays.

“I do that anyway and people think I’m nuts,” Kunesh said. “We leave them up until February at least. ... I want everyone else to leave them up too, because January and February are so dark.”

He said that people in the area seem to get into Christmas more than residents of other places he’s lived, as shown by the enthusiasm for local holiday events. 

Here’s to making our hometowns a warm, well-lit haven in a cold, dark time.

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This time of year, Brian Mittge loves to sing about Good King Wenceslas, who walked through snow that lay “deep and crisp and even.” Send your favorite dad jokes or local Christmas light displays to brianmittge@hotmail.com.

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