“Sleigh bells ring, are you listening? In the lane, snow is glistening?”
There wasn’t any snow, and it wasn’t a sleigh exactly, but it WAS a “lane”.
Last night, eight of us piled into my son-in-law Brad Covey’s Suburban, and we went on a tour, sleigh bells ringing (virtual ones) to see some of the Christmas holiday lights in our nearby neighborhoods.
Candy Cane Lane is the name used to describe 23 houses in Seattle’s Ravenna neighborhood. The houses were built close together on purpose. In the 1920s, a University of Washington architecture project fashioned this block as a neighborhood community. The effect was something like an English country village, homes made of brick with arched doorways and tiny garages hidden in the back. They still look quaint, like a snapshot from a different era.
The holiday lighting tradition originally grew out of a contest sponsored by The Seattle Times about 1950. The challenge? Create a display that shows the most Christmas cheer. Candy Cane Lane took the top prize, and the tradition stuck.
Houses are adorned with strings of lights, dancing reindeer, candy cane-striped poles, tinsel snowmen. Signs that say “peace” in different languages — mir, paz, paix, shalom — greet visitors from front lawns. Some houses have themes like a toy shop complete with elves inspecting a “naughty and nice” list with all the neighbors’ names on it.
The centerpiece is a working carousel suspended from a holly bush on a little island park in the middle of the street. Cars circle the block, slowly so as to take it all in, and some visitors stroll through on foot to see the elaborate displays up close.
Preparation for the annual extravaganza starts early. Residents hold a summer garage sale to fund their electricity bill, then begin mapping out the details in September. Then they spend one long day in early December fishing out Christmas trinkets and trimmings from their basements and other storage spaces, and transforming their block into a winter wonderland.
The Candy Cane homeowners are a hardy lot. Every December, they put up with the constant smell of auto exhaust, the lack of privacy, the lack of peace and quiet, and — oh, yes — that electric bill. Over the years, an occasional resident has chosen not to decorate. But most seem to think the holiday jollity is worth the trade-offs and it’s helped create an atmosphere where everyone knows everyone else, a rarity in a big city.
Most of these photos were taken by granddaughter Josie.