Northeast Park Road is a small looping residential extension of Twenty-First Northeast, where the winding double track of Ravenna Boulevard puts paid to Twenty First as a named entity. Every Christmas, this little neighborhood of two dozen very nice old tudor houses becomes transformed into a wonderland of colored lights and decorations and calls itself Candy Cane Lane. I suppose there is a Candy Cane Lane in every large city, but this one has apparently been “in residence” since the 1940s.
It has been one of our holiday traditions since Mara’s second Christmas to visit Candy Cane Lane. The first year, if I recall correctly, we merely joined the caravan of automobiles driving down the one-car-wide street one night when we happened to see it on our way home from Christmas shopping. As soon as it’s dark, Ravenna Boulevard jams up with cars trying to turn into Candy Cane Lane or exit from the other end of Candy Cane Lane. For the last three years, however, we have made a point to park the car and walk through.
Candy Cane Lane is not the most incredible light show in Seattle. Certainly there are individual houses that fairly pulse with colored wattage in every neighborhood, and there are other rows and streets that, simply by accident, contain a greater absolute number of houses done up in blazing electric yulefire. There’s a house just a block away from us that has more lights on it than any single house in Candy Cane Lane, and over on Maple Leaf there’s a house whose yard is jam packed with colored lights in different grouped areas — food lights such as chilis and tomatoes, Halloween lights such as skeletons and pumpkins, Christmas lights of course, ocean lights such as shells and fish, Jewish lights such as menorahs — and which is topped by a large star of Bethlehem attached to a scaffold on the roof. Celebrants may wander into the yard and investigate all the different areas, and there is a donation box posted on the walkway.
What makes Candy Cane Lane unique is that every single house in the loop joins in. There may be a neighborhood covenant for all I know that mandates participation, but at a minimum there are signs — one in each yard — that express the equivalent of the word “Peace” in languages from around the world (one sign read “Suhl” and had “Afghan” written underneath, though I believe that this is simply an Arabic word). But most houses also have either some yard decorations, some strings of lights along the roof, a display in the windows, front pillars wrapped in broad red ribbon to look like candy canes, or all of these. One of our favorites has old-time wooden toys in its front window, and another has a white-bearded nutcracker riding a rocking horse. In the traffic circle, a large circular hedge is fitted with a revolving row of figures — one year it was drummers; this year it was ice skaters.
Mara has an uncanny memory. As we passed the last house, which had a large train on the porch, she commented that it was different, that last year this house had had a tea set out on the porch. After she mentioned this I recalled that, yes, we had let her walk up the steps of this house last year for a closer look at the large dolls sitting at kid sized tables and chairs.
Obviously some years it snows, some years it’s clear, and some years it’s wet. Tonight it was raining, but a tradition is a tradition.