“Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.” In December when the weather is cold, and daylight fades early, the streets assume a particular holiday stillness.

I call it a holiday stillness because nighttime in December includes homes lit up with lights and bay windows looking into living rooms all decked out with Christmas trees and knick knacks and presents. I always look forward to coming home at the end of the day, but during the holidays the desire is even stronger to get home to the warmth and good food and my family.

However, yesterday evening I ventured out into the cold to drive from Hammond into New Orleans with my boyfriend Josh and our 15 month old to see the lights in City Park. The traditional light display in the park is known to be one of the best exhibits in the country, and this was my first time to see it.

Yet this evening it was not the lights that most caught my attention, but the stillness in New Orleans that was totally peaceful. It was a holiday stillness and my eyes kept being drawn to the homes. Now, stillness is not usually what one thinks of when thinking about driving into New Orleans to see the lights in City Park.

And the evening did not begin in stillness. When we got to the city, we were joined by Josh’s mom at the Whole Foods Market across from Lakeside Mall. Needless to say, there was a ton of construction and cars were everywhere. But when we crossed into Orleans Parish a stillness came over the night. We drove through Lakeview to City Park, and entered the park by the Museum.

The drive through the park was quick, and as we saw the reds and greens and blues of the lit up amusement park, we understood the joy and I could feel the excitement of the kids and families there. I loved seeing Jasmine’s eyes from the backseat as she stared out the window at the lights and motion. From there we headed uptown to St. Charles Ave., which is home to gracious Victorian homes and condominiums. When we were driving up the Avenue, I felt the sight was absolutely breathtaking, as a good number of the homes and gardens displayed bright white and multi-colored lights. The contours and architecture of the homes were accentuated by the webs of light and I could see the Christmas trees in the front windows. There were other cars on the road, and pedestrians, but everything seemed like a scene from It’s A Wonderful Life. Maybe it was the Christmas music playing on 101.9. Maybe it was the streetcar that passed us two times,or my daughter giggling in the backseat, but the evening was magical.

St. Charles Ave. actually possesses its own magic. This part of the city has always been my favorite. The Universities are majestic and I can sit at a cafe and gaze at the homes and lose track of time. This night we spoke of how soon it will be Mardi Gras, and instead of imagining icicles forming on the tree branches, there would be the familiar sight of beads hanging with the moss and strewn on the sidewalks. Mardi Gras is anything but still, a total contrast to this particular night ten days before Christmas.

I always think every neighborhood in New Orleans has its own magic. My cousin thinks we were crazy to drive all the way to New Orleans just to drive around the city looking at lights. Maybe we were. I knew when we drove to the city to see the lights in City Park, that what I really wanted to see was the lights on St. Charles Ave. I was not disappointed.

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