The year: 1973. The United States was mired in an energy crisis spurred by conflict in the Middle East. The price of a gallon of gas leapt from 35¢ to 50¢ - if you could get it. In some states, you could only by gas on certain days. President Nixon asked people to stop buying gas on Sundays. Lines to purchase gas wound around the block as people waited hours for the chance of buying a few gallons. This was also the time that all the freeway speed limits got dropped to 55 mph.
To help the Nation cope with the energy crisis that winter, the government asked the American people to make the ultimate sacrifice: No Christmas lights. Some states, like Oregon, passed laws banning Christmas lights, others just asked their populace to refrain. Still other communities did their parts by outlawing lights at the local level. (Seriously? In a town powered by hydro-electric dams, banning Christmas lights was going to stop the effects of the Yom Kippur War?)
The town where I grew up passed an ordinance: No Christmas lights, or you will be fined. (Cue dramatic music. dun-dun-daaaa.)
Let me tell you about my mother. My mother was a holiday FANATIC. If she were alive today she would have a blog called "How to Overdo for the Holidays". And she loved Christmas - both parts. Our house was always decorated and festive - and then some.
When the ruling came down from the government that Christmas lights were banned, she was outraged. She was defiant. She sent my dad to the lumberyard to get a 4'x8' sheet of plywood. She painted it, decorated it with elves and a string of lights. Then they mounted it smack dab in the middle of our front yard. It brazenly declared:
They were the only Christmas lights on the street, and I think the only lights in the town. We felt she had made her point, but it wasn't enough for her. She had my dad- who was a willing accomplice - set up spotlights to shine on her "Christmas Card to President Nixon". It was so bright, and the street so dark, that I think you could have seen it from space.
All that holiday season we waited for the dreaded knock on the door telling us to turn it off. We waited for the fine that never came. It was my first brush with civil disobedience, all for the sake of Christmas.