Christmas Lights

Christmas Lights

A Story by Shannon

In a manner of speaking


Standing on the side of a dark highway, no traffic lights - not a single artificial light - visible in any direction.  The car beside us sits empty.  Wind pulls at our winter wear; jackets, mittens, toques and scarves move erratically, tugged by the unseen force of the occasional gust. But we stand nearly motionless.  The time is nearing that tipping point, where this night will become the first minutes of Christmas eve.

Going back for Christmas is always an event.  Family meets in a cacophonous combination of children, pets, gifts, meals, treats, games and outdoor activities.  But this is the first year we are travelling so far - the year we Moved Away…


We are new to our jobs and can’t get much time off. Weary from a day of work, we leave when most people are sitting down to supper, to join in the holiday fun the following day. We are not used to this trip; it’s length feels daunting.  The night is clear, if a little cold, and traffic thins out quickly.

As we move down the highway, time slows down, seconds tick along with kilometres at a frustratingly glacial pace.  Staring out the passenger window, watching snow covered landscape go by, I see a glimmer. A few flashes of white light.  Indistinct at first, maybe reflections from a vehicle on a rural road or a farm house light. The flashes get longer, in duration and distance.  They begin to widen to inconsistent bands of light, streaking across the sky only to disappear into the ether.  The Northern Lights.

After watching for a few moments, I look back and see my son is awake.  “Northern Lights on this side of the car.”

“My side, too,” he replies, so I slide open the cover of the sun roof, to give us both a wider view of the wisps of light in the night sky. The shimmering begins to solidify, becoming dancing ribbons of light, as the temperature drops and frost begins to build up on the car windows, obscuring our view.

The Aurora Borealis persist in keeping our attention, peeking though still transparent bits of the windows, gaining strength, becoming bright. The ribbons now support streaks that reach up further into the sky.  The darkness become lighter.  Colours emerge; green first.  A color that shouldn’t exist in nature.  The color of neon signs in a free form ribbon across the sky.  The pillars rising out of the ribbons change from green to magenta, fleeting crystalline structures in the sky, gone in a heart beat.  Over and over.

Mother nature is providing an incomparable display of Christmas lights, unrivalled by even the most thoughtful or garish offerings created to celebrate the season.

The road we are on winds gently through varied terrain.  Here, we speed past small fields and smaller hills interspersed with gatherings of trees.  Other lights rarely pierce the inky night.

“Let’s stop to look at the lights” I tell my husband as the show intensifies, and the frost on the windows increases.

“Are you sure?” he asks “its cold and getting late”.

“Yes.” I reply, not adding, but thinking: ‘what difference will a few extra minutes make?’

He pulls onto the narrow shoulder of a straight section of the highway, in near uninterrupted darkness, and turns off the car, so the dashboard does not emit competing light.  Ensuring winter clothing is in place, we step out into the snow, putting the car between us and the road.

“Mom….”my son whispers, his voice trailing off, as he first tips his head upward to take in more of the night sky, then slowly turns his whole body in a circle.  His tired eyes widen and he tries to speak again. “Wow…” is all that comes out.  Reverence on his face and in the one breathed word.

Leaving the confines of the car has revealed the scope of the lights.  They surround us, embrace the night and push it back.  A multitude of the green ribbons float through the sky, intermingling and separating at will.  The green so intense, it feels solid, tangible, until it shimmers away, making room for yet another to follow.  The spires that rise out of the ribbons reach so high into the night that, at times, they turn from magenta to deep royal blue before fading into the darkness of space.

We stand for hours or minutes, until our fingers feel the chill and our noses begin to run.  

“Time to get back in the car?” my husband asks, reluctance in his voice.

We return to the car, turn the heat on high and resume our travels.  The windows are still frosted as the lights fade.

“Do you remember when Grandma tried to get all the pink lights off the Christmas tree?” my son asks “Do you think she forgot they look like the northern lights?”

The trip lightens, changing from late night drudgery to a laughter filled trip through memories of Christmases past, to join in much anticipated festivities, as the sky darkens completely.

© 2016 Shannon

Author's Note

All constructive feedback always welcome.

My Review

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That was spectacular. Very visual. It conveyed the amazing wonder of the sight. As usual I enjoy your spare way with words.

I always follow Neil Gaiman's words when it comes to reviews and critiques... "Remember: when people tell you something's wrong or doesn't work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong."

There was one review I severely disagreed with, about condensing something that was just fine the way it was, the list of the winter clothing and suggesting a re-wording. Grr, I hate that.

Like Barley Girl, I was intrigued by the severe cold, having never experienced anything even close, But it worked the way it is. I just feel curious. Maybe in another story you can explain or describe extreme cold to us folks down here in sane climates.

Thanks for sharing this with us.

Posted 1 Month Ago

This is a charming snap-shot of moments we often miss. The author's power of story telling is very evident. Descriptive powers are good on the verge of being impeccable. The characters were not as defined as I would have liked but acceptable.
I was there with these three people every step of the story.
Pacing was excellent. The language was clipped but necessary to maintain the pace. I'm not sure I would have done it that way.
The narrative voice was clear and unwavering and quite authentic. The mood and atmosphere were well defined.
If I were you, I'd read the story aloud or have someone read it aloud. Those areas that need attention will surface like magic. Grammarly is a useful tool to have. It's available for free on the Internet and works magic for punctuation and spelling. It will hyphenate words that need it while giving you the choice of ignoring the suggestion if you prefer.
He said, she said, he replied are not necessary when only three people are present. There are other creative ways of identifying whose speaking.
It's and its, further vs farther incorrectly used.
All of this correcting stuff is nitpicking on my part. But cleaning up some of these things will add sparkle and perfection to this jewel in your portfolio.
Ciao, JT

Posted 7 Months Ago

This could have been written as a poem but I think it works magically as a story. It captures the whole spirit and magic of Christmas and the festivities. I enjoyed this a lot.

Posted 8 Months Ago


8 Months Ago

Thank you for the read and review Patrick. I definitely am a story teller who writes poems sometimes.. read more
219335_One-Stop Publishing: free print & ebook publishing
I like how your descriptive words take us along with the the family in your story. Very good story.

Posted 8 Months Ago


8 Months Ago

Thank you Len. I appreciate the read and feedback. My stories tend to be a little slice of life.
This reads like an exercise in prose and descriptive language, in a very good way. Excellent use of language.
Good read.

Posted 9 Months Ago


9 Months Ago

That's pretty much what it was intended to be. I am very glad to hear it worked. I have Aphantasia. .. read more
This trip of varied joy you have shared has inspired me! Here in Oregon i have not had the pleasure of seeing first hand your Northern Lights; they sound exquisite and so exciting! "Christmas Lights" was a delight to read. I found the journey you described so real and eventful. Your husband, son and yourself giving a picture, a sharing of your experience. Your car even seemed like a separate character. I loved how you all exited the car and just took in first hand the real and huge beauty of God's glorious art piece! It was so nice reading your writing for the first time. Bless you in your wonderful and expressive writing! Kathy

Posted 9 Months Ago


9 Months Ago

Thank you very much Kathy.. I am glad that this one spoke to you. I'll tell you two things.. This is.. read more
Kathy Van Kurin

9 Months Ago

Oh Thanks, for the info. I have considered changing my writer's name ...that;s about as far as Iv'e .. read more
Wow, amazing description, i would love to witness them for real. Another fantastic write 😀

Posted 10 Months Ago


10 Months Ago

Thank you. They are a sight to behold.
What an experience to have especially on Christmas Eve! I like the way you detail the beauty of what is manifesting before you. I can just imagine the chatter when the entire family sits down to dinner and your family relates this event. Thank you for sharing this wondrous time.

Posted 10 Months Ago


10 Months Ago

Thank you for spending the time to read. As you probably know, once you have seen them, they are .. read more
Happy that i finally read one of your stories. This is a very credible Christmas write. First time through, I read it for enjoyment and it certainly touch me. Second time through, I read it for structure and wow can you write! Third time through I read it for its beauty. I so hope you have goals of being published because you are very talented.

Posted 10 Months Ago


10 Months Ago

Thank you Mark. I am glad that you enjoyed this one. Very gratifying. You never know, but that's.. read more
blimey! your descriptions are mesmerizing, S. a truly beautiful little thing. did you imagine it all, I wonder? or did it really happen?
perfect in every aspect. love it.

Posted 11 Months Ago


11 Months Ago

Thank you Woody. This one is very real. And I am glad you found it beautiful. I was using every b.. read more

10 Months Ago

I truly could see it with my mind's eye. just like I've seen it on TV or in pictures. it's like a ca.. read more

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21 Reviews
Shelved in 2 Libraries
Added on December 9, 2016
Last Updated on December 9, 2016




I like to explore the world through the human experience, at once both varied and singular. Reading, writing and meeting people makes one's world larger. I enjoy connecting with people, learning.. more..

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