Daylight saving time is done for another year. We’ve entered the long dark – the period of the least amount of daylight in the Northern Hemisphere.
That the nights are getting colder just adds to the sense that this is our darkest time of the year here within the Alleghenies. The bright promise of spring – and even the return of daylight saving time on March 8 of 2020 – seem so distant right now.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the holiday season is so important to so many of us. During a time when it is so black outside, we bring brightness inside our places of business and employment, our homes and our hearts.
We are not so removed from our remote ancestors, who sought to chase away evil spirits with bonfires on the winter solstice (which marks the longest night). Today, we use holiday celebrations and light displays.
While I can’t substantiate this, it’s been my observation that holiday light displays are more popular here in the North than in more-temperate regions of the country. Which doesn’t make much practical sense, given that people must endure harsher weather conditions here to put up displays than they would in warmer climes.
Perhaps we need light displays more here, to temporarily chase away the dark, buoy our spirits and warm us emotionally. Stringing lights is an act of resistance, a way to strike out, to tell the darkness, “You are not welcome.”
We make viewing holiday lights – especially the elaborate displays – a social event with family members, friends and fellow travelers. Rather than surrounding bonfires as the ancients did, we walk or drive through parks and resorts that surround us with light.
Most local communities have holiday “Light-up” nights and tie in entertainment, shopping opportunities, food and special activities. But it seems that there are growing numbers of elaborate, destination lighting displays around the region as well.
A couple of them have been here for many years and deserve first mention.
The granddaddy is Overly’s Country Christmas, a few miles outside of Greensburg. Overly’s began back in the 1950s as a family display but now features a Christmas village and multiple activities at the Westmoreland Fairgrounds. It will be open from Nov. 22 through Dec. 30. Overlys.com.
Holiday Lights on the Lake has been drawing people to Lakemont Park in Altoona for more than 20 years now. Its numbers are impressive: more than a million lights on more than 50 acres. This drive-through attraction is open from Nov. 15 through Jan. 5. LakemontParkFun.com.
The community of Bedford is launching a new “grassroots drive-through holiday light display” this year at the Bedford County Fairgrounds. Residents, businesses, organizations, churches and school groups are being invited to come out and erect their own displays. The display will be open to the public Dec. 13-15 and 19-23. (814-623-2233).
Several of the region’s resorts have gotten into holiday light displays in a big way.
Light Up Nemacolin will illuminate this Farmington resort with more than 2 million lights from Nov. 29 through Dec. 27. Live entertainment, ice carving and train rides will complement the experience. Nemacolin.com.
Seven Springs Mountain Resort offers “Holidays in the Highlands” with special activities on Fridays and Saturdays, Nov. 29-30, Dec. 6-7, and with the light display continuing through Jan. 19. There will be more than a million lights displayed over almost 4 miles, plus a holiday village, family activities, shopping opportunities and seasonal entertainment. 7springs.com.
Near Bedford on Nov. 30, the “Grand Illumination of Omni Bedford Springs,” will offer performances of “The Nutcracker” by the Allegheny Ballet, Old Bedford Village craftspeople, family activities, displays of resort decorations and the featured lighting of a 40-foot fir. (814-624-5642).
Make an excursion to one of these places this holiday season. You will be making your long dark a little shorter.
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