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A study in contrast
Dave Borowski | Catholic Herald
Dave Borowski | Catholic Herald
The minimalist Borowski Christmas lights show.

As I’ve done every year around this time I began decorating the outside of my house for Christmas. My wife handles the inside; I do the cold exterior.

There was a certain irony that I started this Dec. 1, the morning of the day I was assigned to cover a spectacular Christmas light show in Clifton.

Antoine Chahine has thousands of lights synchronized by computer to dance to Christmas carols. For people who come, he asks for food donations to Catholic Charities. Famous local sportscasters have recorded a welcome at the start of the show, and people by the carloads park in his cul-de-sac, tune their radios to FM 89.1 for accompanying music and settle in for a spectacular 15-minute festival of lights.

Chahine begins preparing for the shows five weeks in advance. I do mine the morning of installation.

The day of the Clifton show, I dragged out garland, string-lights and Santas from basement, garage and shed. If I can find the stuff and the lights are not crushed or tangled beyond use, decorating can happen quickly. I staple the garland and lights around my front door, staple lights to the fence in front and throw a lighted wreath over my garage.

My signature piece is a plaster crèche set, complete with Holy Family, shepherds, wise men and an angel. Unfortunately, I couldn’t put the crèche up Saturday because of damage to Mary’s hand.

Several summers ago while moving a ladder in my garage, it slipped from my grasp and partially severed Mary’s hand from her arm. I fixed the arm by duct-taping it back on and spray painting it to match the white of the statue.

It held together until Saturday. When I pulled her out of the storage place in my basement, Mary’s hand dangled from her arm and the gray of the duct-tape shown through. I reattached her hand with tape and spray-painted her hand, delaying the unveiling until Sunday.

Late Saturday afternoon, I left for Clifton before it got dark so the lights on a timer did not come on as I left my neighborhood.

When I drove home from the Clifton show that evening, I could see my house lit up like a 30-watt nightlight. It was a bit of a letdown after the Chahine show, and there were no crowds in my cul-de-sac either.

I thought that maybe next year I’ll put more lights on my trees, but I still have a year to talk myself out of that.

To see photos and a story about Antoine Chahine’s lightshow in Clifton go here.

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