Now and then you get the chance to have a Perfect Holiday Experience and Friday night I was the lucky one. Friends and family gathered together at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens for their Festival of Lights. I've been going every year since 2006 and each year it gets better. The lights stay up till a week or so past New Year's and even at the tail end of the display it's a glorious sight, but my preference is to go before Christmas, because there's something about the mystery of being out doors in the cold darkness with acres of lighted paths, bridges, tunnels, mazes, and strangers milling about that makes me want to burst into song - and what could be more fun than to sing Christmas Carols under the cloak of glittering darkness?
We always meet up with special friends here and last year we expanded the group to include my sister and her family. This year the group swelled into a little crowd of 25 revelers. It was like having a party, only nobody had to clean her house. And this is the first time there have been children along, though, I am sure there wasn't a child in the whole garden who was as excited as I was. I'd been chomping at the bit about this get-together for weeks. Of course, coordinating a gathering of this size means you have to start organizing dates way early. But we were able to fix on a date that almost everybody could book and the it was just a matter of crossing off the days.
This year I also had the foresight to bring along printed lyrics to Christmas carols. I would have thought, as many times as I've sung them, that I would never forget the lyrics, but it isn't so - nor is it for anyone else. But printed out in a bold san serif font at 18 points, the words are visible in the colored glow of lighted trees. Everyone seemed to enjoy singing along and of course, if somebody didn't feel very vocal, who would know if she was singing or not? It's dark.
There's so much to see at this event - so much glitter and beauty and whimsy. The designers of this layout manage to blend good taste with humor into a perfect display of color and magic. And it's not just out doors where all this colorful beauty glows with light. Inside the enormous Victorian style conservatory is a bird and butterfly bedecked tree, probably 30 feet tall.
Inside the large conference building is a library - and this year, inside the library was a library - complete with Sherlock Holmes! The doll house/miniature display gets bigger every year. Some are fantasy houses and some are reproductions of real places. Just an opportunity for more fantasy filled imagining.
Having so many loved ones with me to share in this experience really is my best Christmas present. There will be other surprises, other wonderful moments, but I will be coasting on this night for the whole of 2011.
As for today, well. Today is recharging day. It's raining outside and foggy and grey when nothing is actually falling. I plan to watch Christmas movies and to knit for the bulk of today. I have a little cooking to do, but it is fun cooking, not strenuous werk. There is a Cashmere Christmas gift almost done, a Second Sock near completion, and a dress that is clamoring from the couch - "Knit me! Knit me!" it's saying.
Love me some rainy Sundays.