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OPINION: Light up the city and fend off winter’s darkness

Published on

George Mathewson

I have a fond memory as a child of being bundled into the family car with a thermos of hot chocolate and being driven around to gawk at all the homes lit up for Christmas.

The grand finale of the tour was always Oak Street and the home of the late Harvey McMichael. There, in a preternatural glow, cars would line up bumper to bumper to inch past a modest wartime house awash in dazzling luminescence.

On those magic nights, if a little snow fell softly, the enchantment went even deeper.

The generosity of spirit that was shown on Oak Street became the inspiration for the Celebration of Lights, launched 32 winters ago in Centennial Park.

Besides providing a family-friendly helping of Christmas cheer, the light displays became a tourist attraction. In the 1990s, dozens of tour buses from as far away as Ohio arrived to marvel at Sarnia’s waterfront transformed.

Like many good things, however, the lights slowly began to dim. Fewer children, aging volunteers and bigger, brighter festivals in other cities precipitated a decline that culminated in October with its announced cancellation.

Then, something unexpected happened. These recent Journal website headlines outline the story:

“Plug pulled on the Celebration of Lights” (Oct. 11).

“Celebration of Lights hoping for a Christmas miracle” (Oct. 20)

“It’s alive! Celebration of Lights returning after all” (Oct. 31)

“Celebration of Lights switched on Friday” (Nov. 16)

In a remarkable show of Sarnia spirit, individuals, labour groups, small businesses and schools came together at the 11th hour to donate time and money to save the six-week festival.

And now it’s come full circle. Organizers have also announced the unexpected return of the Celebration’s Home Lighting Competition.

Homeowners in Sarnia, Point Edward and Corunna can enter by signing up before Dec. 9 at www.celebrationof

Judging takes place on Dec. 13, with Bluewater Power funding cash prizes for the top three homes. Winners will be judged on arrangement of lights, maximum use of surroundings and overall creativity.

These days, I must admit, I regard the “holiday season” as something to endure. Two straight months of shopping zombies, cloying Christmas songs and commercial bonhomie make my heart grow two sizes too small.

But I relish a few things, especially Christmas morning itself, and getting together with family and friends. And I still love seeing our streets awash in coloured lights, striving against winter’s long, dark nights.

A map will be available soon on the Celebration’s website pinpointing the location of houses entered in the competition, and I’ll be among the first to print it off.
















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