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Rusty Saber

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by Joe McAdoo

The Christmas season began soon after Thanksgiving at my house, at least. In stores, it began the day after Halloween. I'd be willing to bet that the Christmas season would be cranked up a whole lot sooner if Halloween weren't, next to Christmas, the most profitable of all holidays.

I find it hard to think of Halloween as a, you know, a real live holiday. Real holiday or not, Americans spend enough on ghost and goblin costumes, decorations, and enough trick-or-treat candy to keep every child in cavities for life to make Halloween a real commercial holiday. If Halloween weren't so profitable, the Christmas shopping season would kick off on Labor Day weekend.

I happily ignore the commercial mumbo-jumbo of Christmas in November. Christmas is officially kicked off at my house when (drum roll, please) the outdoor Christmas lights go up. I more or less do it like the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, where throwing the switch to turn on lights the day after Thanksgiving is a big television event.

Media don't cover my lighting ceremony, but it's a big deal to me. Besides, I don't throw a master switch, I plug in two different extension cords at two different spots. That wouldn't make for good TV drama.

This year's post-Thanksgiving lighting ceremony took place on the Sunday afternoon following Thanksgiving. Break out the mistletoe and deck the halls, I'm officially into the spirit of Christmas.

Decorating the outside is a fairly new Christmas tradition at our house. As I recall, when our children were growing up, not many of the homeowners decorated in the neighborhood where we lived. (Today most of my neighbors decorate; peer pressure is powerful motivation).

Besides, in my previous life as a college professor, the weeks leading up to Christmas with the end of the semester and all were so busy that I could barely find time to send Christmas cards, much less spend a day hanging by my heels from the roof installing Christmas lights.

Alas, now that I have the time to please the children by putting up outside decorations, they are no longer children and they don't live with us.

I don't want to give the impression that my display somehow rivals the lavish decorations at Silver Dollar City. People don't come from across the nation to see my lights they won't even come from around the corner. Mine will not be among the names of the winners of a "Best Decorated House" contest.

I suppose I could get fancy and say I have "artfully festooned bushes and trees with an array of brightly colored Christmas lights." But put another way, I've strung Christmas lights around trees and bushes. After dark, they look sort of Christmasy.

I don't have any lighted Christmas lawn ornaments; no Santa Claus, sleigh, snow flakes, candy canes nothing but lights. No manger scene, no angels, no religious symbols. That should keep the civil libertarians from threatening to sue me. I don't even have a city-of-Republic fish outlined in bright lights. I'm safe from lawsuits.

Because of the unusually warm November, I even escaped frostbitten fingers for a change. There I was, at the end of November, in shirtsleeves, stringing Christmas lights.

Over the years, we have accumulated a lot of Christmas lights. Once down from the attic, strings of lights have to be unrolled and untangled, then tested to see which ones still work. Some strings will light up even if a bulb is out, others won't. If you decorate, you know how much fun it can be trying to find the defective bulb in a string that won't work if one is out.

Since no lights will come on until you replace the bad one, it is almost impossible to find the bad one. It's a deductive reasoning job befitting the talents of Sherlock Holmes.

I enjoy hanging outdoor Christmas decorations.

Oh, sure, the body has to bend and fold in unique configurations to do it, but it's for Christmas. Figuring out where to string the lights and plugging together the proper fixtures so every string lights up is the sort of right-brain activity that I like.

Ho. Ho. Ho. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

(Joe McAdoo is former chairman of the communication department at Drury College and a Springfield public relations consultant.)

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