Editor shares views how Christmas lights shouldn't be strictly for Christmas, but should be used to brighten the entire winter.

I am a firm believer in simple pleasures being the key to a happy and successful life.

My favorite things are the small things: Curling up with a good book beneath a fluffy blanket; putting together a jigsaw puzzle while watching an old black-and-white movie; hiking through the forest; indulging in something chocolatey.

That's why I have one seemingly teeny tiny request of you all: If you haven't already taken them down, leave up your Christmas lights throughout the rest of winter.

It's already been a miserable winter. We've been snowbound at least three times and have witnessed the mayhem of Portland metro drivers. On top of that, the days are shorter, making it few and far between when I can actually see my house in daylight.

So as the days gradually start to extend ever so slowly, why not contrast the gloom of winter with bouncy, sparkly lights?

I don't understand why lights hanging from a house or downtown bare-branched trees have to be associated with Christmas anyway. Sure, the tradition of Christmas lights stems from decorating Christmas trees with lit candles. Strings of electrical Christmas lights (also called twinkle lights, holiday lights, mini lights or fairy lights) weren't commonly used on homes until the mid-20th century, according to the ever-reliable Wikipedia.

I have actually never celebrated Christmas (for religious reasons), but the only time that really bothered me as a kid was when I was admiring lights adorning our neighbors' houses. Our house was in the country, so it was cloaked in darkness seemingly perpetually. Lights on the outside, even a few white icicle lights, would be a warm, inviting way to be welcomed home every night.

My parents recognized my admiration of these lights, and, as a surprise, adorned my bedroom with twinkle lights for my 10th or 11th birthday in February. I remember the awe-inspiring sight, how reassuring those colorful lights were as they danced, casting cool shadows across my room. I kept them up for an excessively long time (at least it seemed like that as a kid), even when it was time to sleep.

What is it about lights that makes them special? It's a break from the ordinary, a way to grab your attention, a sparkle in a sea of gloom. A decorative window of a business that's lit up with lights is just as pretty in January as in December, if not more so.

In some instances, it's also like watching a show. Consider the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Both buildings are lit up at night, every night, year round, and on the hour they twinkle frantically, dazzling passers-by and making you pause and appreciate the simple beauty. On special occasions, they will put on LED light shows, getting hundreds of oohs and aahs from tourists and residents alike.

Of course there are drawbacks. Lights prevent you from seeing the stars. But let's be realistic: This is Oregon, so you're not going to be seeing stars anyway.

What about light pollution? I seriously doubt lights on your house or business will really come close to the damage that a major metropolitan area does.

And, of course, I understand that keeping lights on all winter might not be easy on the budget.

But if it's not too much trouble, why not help in this one teeny tiny way to keep your neighborhood cheery in the coming weeks?

After all, it's the simple pleasures that get us through life.

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