This series is a review of last year’s holiday season.
Tree Lighting – December 2021
For the last couple of years, my daughter and I really haven’t been into Christmas. When she was little I would get a tree and cover it with lights and ornaments, but after a while, she lost interest and so did I. For so many years as a kid I had so many incredibly great Christmases I felt like I was over it now. It all just seemed like a huge cash grab and stress creator for the masses. That anxiety of having to go out and spend a bunch of money on a load of gifts for everyone. It all just seemed so commercialized after a while.
We’re tired of all the Christmas music that starts right after Halloween. We’ve all heard all of the Christmas music ever made over the years. How many different people can sing and play the same old songs year after year? Don’t get me wrong, Christmas is great. So are birthdays. But they’re great for little kids. To me, Christmas is when I hop on a train and go to my older sister’s house and meet up with the rest of my siblings and other families. It’s one day in December and it’s a time for us to all gather to eat, drink and chat. I love it. It’s a wonderful time. But beyond that, I’m over Christmas. Last year I didn’t watch one Christmas show or movie. I didn’t listen to any Christmas music either. I felt fine. I embraced what was important and left it at that.
My daughter and I exchanged gifts and it was nice, but that was enough for both of us. But this year I’m going to try to get into Christmas a little more. I’ll probably listen to Christmas music on the train down to my sister’s and of course, I’ll get my daughter something even though I have no idea what she wants.
I’ve lived in Philly for over a decade and I’ve never gone to the annual tree lighting ceremony at City Hall. I’ve either been busy doing something way more fun, or it just felt like something that would be too crowded and full of undesirables. But this year I saw that it was happening and it wasn’t a cold night, so I asked my daughter if she wanted to walk over with me and watch as they lit 4000 lights on a 40-foot tree. Could be interesting, right?
I mention it to my daughter and she agreed to go with me. So I know it’ll already be better knowing that she’ll be there and we can share it.
We had dinner so we wouldn’t be cranky and starving while we were there. I read that the tree-lighting event was happening at 7 pm. So we decided to head over around 6:30. I had no idea what it was all about because like I said, I’d never gone to this event.
But here’s the thing… before we went we sparked up a joint and I took two pretty big hits. I figured it would just give me a light glow to further enjoy the festivities. I’m a lightweight when it comes to weed and my tolerance is really low. Growing up I never liked weed because the high came on too fast and it made me feel anxious and paranoid. Booze on the other hand was my favorite and a perfect lubricant for my mind for decades. I hardly drink alcohol at all anymore and don’t see the point, but I’ve begun to really enjoy a little grass in the evening after 10 pm. It feels good, makes everything funnier and more interesting and I really like it now. I’ve beat my anxiety and depression issues so when I take a little hit from a glass bowl it just gives me a nice little lift. But this evening, I took two big hits right off a fatty.
We headed out and started our 15-minute trek to City Hall. I started to feel the effects within about 10 minutes. Normally I only smoke pot at 10pm, at home in my bedroom, and go to bed shortly thereafter. I never go outside and smoke pot because it’s just too much stimulus for my mind. I am very disciplined with what goes into my body now and control everything I do to stay level. But tonight, I figured what the hell, let’s see what 4000 lights on a giant tree look like when I’m buzzed.
We get to City Hall and there were a lot of people there by 7pm. The crowd was a bit unnerving but I was with my daughter and didn’t feel too high so it was cool. But after a while I noticed that those two big hits created a stoner wave in my mind as I stood there in a sea of strangers waiting for the tree to illuminate.
We were on the western side of the building and had a good view of the tree. But what we didn’t know was that all of the festivities were really happening on the Broad Street side just north of where we were standing. I’d never gone to this event and I didn’t know where to stand to maximize the experience.
We couldn’t hear or see what was going on on the north side so we were oblivious to the whole thing. We just stood around with everybody else just waiting. I figured it would happen in the next 20 minutes and that would be it. They’d light the tree, we’d all clap and cheer and then go home.
But now it was 7:30 and nothing was happening. I was feeling pretty stoned and it was a bit unnerving to be in this place, outside, at night, surrounded by so many strangers. If I had been drinking it would have been a totally different vibe, but I was high AF by now.
My daughter says she’s really thirsty and tells me she’s going to get something to drink. Off she goes and I’m left there alone in the crowd. I’m not freaking out, but I definitely feel weird and really high. Not scary panicky high, just pretty well stoned.
As people walk by I notice all the Santa hats, people dressed as elves, lights, illuminated swag, and the voices and conversations of everyone around me. For some reason when I’m high my hearing and eyesight become more acute. So I’m feeling everything. As people walk by and push through the crowd I feel like I’m watching my life in Philly pass before my eyes. Many people look like people I’ve interacted with or met while living here in the city. It was really weird. It was like being at a weird Christmas circus filled with people from my past. I would see moms with their kids and families that even by the look of them I could tell where they were from. My mind started to pull from my imagination and create backstories for the people around me.
What was taking my daughter so long to get a drink and get back here? But that was all in my mind. She was probably only gone 10 minutes by then. I saw groups of young people moving through the crowd that resembled people I once knew or dated as a teenager. I was somehow one of the oldest people there and I was pulling all of this imagery from my past and bringing it into my mind’s eye before me. It was bizarre and I started to feel like I needed to stand with one foot in front of the other to steady myself. I wasn’t messed up or afraid in any way, I was simply immersed in the experience. This is why I don’t go outside if I’m high. It’s too much of a visual and aural overload for my imaginative brain.
My daughter returns holding a hot cider. She seems pretty content and I’m glad she’s back. She tells me she came back earlier and saw the tree wasn’t lit yet and decided to find a bathroom. That’s what took her so long. She also tells me that the spiked cider and bottle of water she drank ran her $17. What a tourist ripoff. We’ve been out here for almost an hour now and I’m thinking the ceremony starts at 7 but the tree lights at 8. Never been here, didn’t know.
8 pm finally rolls around and we had a few laughs and a pretty nice time just hanging out together and doing something at Christmas. The tree lights up and everybody cheers. Once that occurs after all of this time, the crowd begins to disperse. We agree that it wasn’t so bad and at least it wasn’t cold outside and begin to walk home. It was a strange experience and I think I’ll do it again next year, but I’ll probably know where to stand and maybe have a drink and no marijuana. Too weird.
Okay, maybe pregame with a few drinks and then a little toke off a weed vape when we get there. That would make more sense. But, like I always say… good or bad, at least I’ll get a story out of it.
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