Holiday Lights Series
Suzelle Sinclair


“Learn to light a candle in the darkest moments of someone’s life. 
Be the light that helps others see; it is what gives life its deepest significance.” 

― Roy T. Bennett

After so much isolation during the pandemic, I was excited to be able to gather with family and friends to celebrate Christmas. The peak of COVID-19 put a damper on last year’s holiday gatherings. While this year, out of precaution, I opted against my usual large Christmas party, I was still extremely excited to be hosting a small family gathering in my home. 

This year, I especially treasured the tradition of traveling to the Carolina mountains to choose and cut a Christmas tree. Shopping in small local shops and local holiday markets was perfectly delightful. The decorations were hung, the menu planned, and all preparations were underway. Then, I discovered that a close friend with whom I had spent an extensive amount of time was diagnosed with COVID. Not only was I extremely concerned for my friend, but with days before the big event, I found myself in quarantine. My holiday plans had come to a halt. The party was canceled. There would be no attending the annual Moravian Love Feast. For Christmas, my dog Gracie and I found ourselves home alone. 

I was thrilled to hear my friend was doing well with less sever symptoms. Fortunately, I had just got my booster shot and I never contracted the virus. However, this experience made me acutely aware of the impact this disease is having on the lives of so many people. My heart goes out to so many who have lost loved ones or are experiencing the serious challenges of COVID. 

I missed having my home filled with guests, but Gracie and I were healthy and able to enjoy our warm home and the lights on the tree. Oh how I love Christmas lights. I remembered as a child, riding around town with my Mom and Dad, enjoying the lights people had strung up for Christmas. With that memory came a delightful idea.

I looked a Gracie who was curled up on the floor by my feet and asked, “hey girl, want to go for a ride?” She quickly sprang from her comfy spot, ears perked and tail wagged. The idea of getting out of the house, if only to go for a car ride, filled her and me with excitement. We could stay quarantined within our car and still enjoy the holiday spirit.

One of my favorite community light displays is in the Greensboro, North Carolina community of Sunset Hills. More than 500 homes have large light balls hanging from the tall mature trees that adorn this beautiful community. These handmade balls are made of chicken wire and strings of Christmas lights. The homeowners have collaborated to hang these lights every year since the mid 1990s. A member of the community once told me about the many ingenious ways they have developed to get the lights up into the enormous trees, including the invention of a large sling shot to shoot a weight up over the branches. The weight is tied to a rope and once the rope is over the branch the light can be hoisted up.

Most years I have parked and walked through the community, greeting folks and thanking those who live there for the joy their work has given. While this year I could only drive through, it was equally enchanting. I opened the sunroof and Gracie popped her head out to greet the folks we passed.

As I turned to drive home, I thought about how everyone in this neighborhood comes together every year to create this magical holiday experience. If, like the neighbors of Sunset Hills, we all shine a light into the darkness, together, we too can illuminate the darkest of places.