They started testing the lights sometime last week.
Our 15-year-old daughter, Emma, was the first to notice that the lights at the Congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix, 1900 Grand Ave. in Carthage, had come on.
The Vietnamese priests and brothers there have made the giant drive-through Christmas light display an area holiday tradition since 1982.
Over the years, I’ve asked many members of the congregation how many bulbs are in the light display, and nobody has ever been able to give me an answer.
Mainly what I get when I ask is a polite laugh, followed by, “Nobody knows.” It’s the same answer I get in the summer, when I ask how many people attend Marian Days, the annual religious and social gathering held on the congregation grounds in early August.
The Congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix is located about half a block from our house. We can see the lights at night from our family room. There is something neat about sitting in our family room, looking out the back, and seeing the lights and the slow parade of cars as they make their way out of the display.
We have lived in our house near the congregation since 2001. Emma has practically grown up with the holiday lights in her backyard. For her, the lights are the signal that the holiday season is truly here. When she was younger, Emma would get excited when the lights came on because that meant Christmas and presents were just around the corner. But Emma’s views on the holidays have evolved a bit.
Last week, when Emma and I drove by the congregation, she mentioned to me that the lights were on the previous night.
“That means the holidays are almost here,” she said.
I jokingly asked Emma if she was excited for Santa Claus, and she laughed. Then she told me that what she was really excited about were our holiday traditions. She said she was looking forward to helping her mom cook on Thanksgiving morning while they watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV. She said she was looking forward to our annual drive through the light display on Thanksgiving night, and then coming home and watching “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.”
By the way, I know some people watch “Trains, Planes and Automobiles” on Thanksgiving night instead of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” and while I certainly respect that choice, we are a “Christmas Vacation” family.
Emma said she was looking forward to clam chowder on Christmas Eve and said that this year she might even stay up and watch all of “Holiday Inn” with us.
My wife is much more holiday-tradition conscious than I am, and much of what we do during the holidays happens because, years ago, she insisted that we do them. I pretend to dislike the traditions, but I actually like most of them.
Because my dad was in the military, we moved a lot when I was a kid. But no matter where we spent Christmas, my mom always insisted on a few holiday traditions. I think it was her way of making sure there was always a sense of home, a sense of order to the holidays whether we were living in Germany, Colorado, Iowa or Okinawa.
I think my mom would have loved the Congregation of the Mother Co-Redemptrix light display. I think she would have liked the mix of Old Testament and New Testament themes in the display. I also think she would get a kick out of some of the displays — like the big duck, for example — that seemingly have little to do with Christmas.
The annual light display will officially kick off at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving. The display then will be open from 6 to 10 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays until Dec. 26. Because the priests and brothers of the congregation consider the light display a thank-you to the city of Carthage, admission to the display is free, but donations are accepted as you leave the grounds.
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