Advent 20/21: Christmas on Las Lunas

Advent Day 20 & 21: Christmas on Las Lunas

There is a house on Las Lunas, less than a mile from our home, that decorates for Christmas. For as long as I can remember my time in Pasadena, this house has been my favorite Christmas stop. Yes, there was the Balian mansion. Many happy memories were made there, taking visitors from out of town to see the elegant display of lighting. The kids would love it, and vendors knew it. They would line the streets with electronic gadgets, bright lights that would lure the kids to them, and along with the kids came the parents who would dish over a few bucks for these lights that would last for a night before they’d inevitably break while the kids swung them.

The Balian mansion was well manicured. Lights hung in an orderly manner with some traditional colored statues, such as the manger scene, angelic singers, wise men, and the rest of the Lucian entourage. On one side of the mansion was a large billboard with a note printed in large letters. It was from the Balian family, thanking the public for their support of their product, Balian ice cream. This landmark house still stands but the elaborate lights do not shine as bright. I believe the mansion was sold and the new owners did not carry on the lighting traditions.

Did I mention that the mansion and its light-show was very orderly and refined?

In contrast, the house on Las Lunas is lights, on top of lights. Different sizes and shapes of bulbs. Statues, yes, of the Holy Family, the wise men and Santa Clause, for sure. But also, brightly lit plastic statues of cartooned carolers from Mickey Mouse to Looney Tune favorites. There are even a variety of superheroes hanging around the manger, Batman and Spiderman are peeking from some well-lit shrubs. Electrical outlets and wires throughout the front yard power the lights rolling off the roof stretching to the curb, giving a new meaning for electric blanket.

It is obvious that this is an amateur production, but I guess so was the First Christmas in Bethlehem. I mean, making do with a manger for a crib?

This is a celebration of Christmas both religious as well as secular. And I love it.

Throughout the years I’d take our boys to see the “House on Las Lunas.” More than the house itself, I’d love to see their expressions as they looked at the lights. A few years back, I knew it wasn’t right to enjoy this so much without offering something in return. So that year, and the years following I would carry some cash with me with the hope that I’d see the owner of the house, thank him and offer something to, at the very least, help with the electric bill to provide the power for all of these lights. I never saw him. Even on the off-season, whenever passing by on Las Lunas I’d glance over on the chance I’d see someone in the yard. But no such luck.

Last week, our grandsons, ages 4 and 2, had come over to visit. My wife and I bundled them up, put them in the car and took them over to give them their first glimpse of Christmas on Las Lunas. I took some cash along with me on the possibility, and hope, that we might find the artistic director of the light show. This time, we were in luck.

We arrived at the house and helped our grandsons out of their infant seats harnesses. They walked out with wide eyes, taking it all in. Big smiles, not knowing in which direction to go first. Christmas music was playing loud. And then… there he was. The owner of the house and creator of the light show was there with a drill in his hand and an assortment of tools he was working on a small “Santa’s house.” He was putting the final touches on the house for the season.

The kids went in and out of all the lights and arrived at the barn where the Holy Family, wisemen and animals were circled around the manger with the Christ child. Our older grandson looked in and we explained what was happening. His younger brother who has to copy everything his brother does, came and listened attentively. We went walking through the lights and different statues and of course, the kids were excited to find Batman and Spiderman on costume.

The owner was busy with the lights, but this was my chance to show my appreciation for the years of happiness he’s given our family and make an offering of assistance. He was working on the final details. I approached him and introduced myself and our grandsons. I told him that I had been coming to his house for years with my sons and now, the turn was my grandson’s. I choked up as I reminisced. “I just want to thank you for all the happiness and joy you’ve brought to my kids and now my grandkids.”

He smiled and thanked me. He gave me a brief history. His father lived in this house until his death 20 years ago. As a tribute to his father, he decorated the house every Christmas because one of his fondest memories was visiting the Balian mansion as a kid. We exchanged memories under the cold December sky. I was surprised to notice twinkling stars through all this light.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out some money. “I know this costs a lot of money to maintain. I’d like to participate with a small offering to at least take care of the electricity.” He looked at me. I was in the shadow of the light, and he probably didn’t notice a couple of tears swelling up on me, but he probably heard it in my voice.

He said, “I can’t take it. It’s not about me. It’s about him.” He pointed to the manger and the baby Jesus laying in it. “I know what he would want you to do with that money. Please give it to the homeless. There are so many on the streets,” and he pointed to the main street.

I felt the greatest joy at that moment. I couldn’t say much, I was still choked up but I did manage to get out a few words. “I will. I will give this money to the homeless and God bless you.”

This weekend in the Advent Season, the Armenian Church sets its mark on the destination, that is Christmas, by giving the shopping list for the Christ child, the honoree of this Birthday celebration. The shopping list is found in the Gospel of Luke and is given by Jesus himself. It is only proper to ask him his choice of gift and give that which he desires. The Jesus’ words are as follows: When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just. (Luke 14: 12-14)

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *