Lighten Up

Our Resident Grinch Goes to See the Christmas Lights at Cedar Hollow

But does he find Yuletide cheer?

By Isaac Eger December 22, 2022

A 40 foot Santa looms over the Christmas lights display at Cedar Hollow.

I don’t think I’ve ever had the Christmas spirit. All the songs, the cheer and the shiny lights never appealed to me. I’ve been called a Grinch more than once. When I was younger, I would obnoxiously point out that Christmas traditions are all cribbed from ancient pagan rituals. Or that it’s not even the birth of Christ—Jesus was actually born in spring when we celebrate Easter. Now I just try to avoid the holiday entirely.

At this point it’s trite to point out the empty consumerism Christmas. We know already that we are being manipulated by corporate behavior therapists to convince us to show love by shopping. Still, everyone else seems to be able to let go and have a good time. Why can’t you just have fun, Isaac? 

Maybe I should just surrender to the unconscious bliss of Yuletide joy. But how to melt the ice around my cold heart? A friend told me I should check out the Christmas Lights Display at the Cedar Hollow subdevelopment off Fruitville and Honore. It’s a sight to behold, he told me. 

For the fifth year running, the neighborhood of Cedar Hollow, a deed restricted community of 225 houses, has put on a Christmas lights display that attracts visitors from all over the area. From 5:30 in the evening to 1 a.m. in the morning, hundreds of thousands of watts of Christmas brilliance will be on display through the New Year’s weekend. Ron Weaver, the Ohio-born resident who started the tradition told me over the phone that it was born out of that urge to keep up with the Joneses.

“The whole thing started when my neighbor across the street and I started putting up decorations on the same day,” Weaver says. “I didn’t know him them, and we weren’t talking much, but when I saw they got their stuff up, I said, 'Man, we need a little more.'” Weaver zipped on over Lowe’s and got some more lights. When his neighbor saw that Weaver had surpassed him in Christmas cheer, he, too, went to Lowe’s. This back and forth went on until finally Weaver hollered over and said, “Enough is enough! It’s not a competition.” 

The two decided to work together to make the whole neighbor more joyful and rigged up some heavy pipes into arches and wrapped them with lights. Eventually, many of the other neighbors wanted in and paid for Weaver to construct more of the arches while they adorned their lawns with lights, mechanical reindeer and inflatable snowmen. 

There is no housing association, so residents are free to put up whatever they like. I asked if anyone ever complains about the lights, the noise or the round-the-clock traffic of holiday sightseers. Weaver said only two people have ever complained. “One of them said it takes him 45 minutes to get to his house because of all the traffic,” Weaver says. “But you know that isn’t true.” 

I told Weaver I had a confession to make. That I am a lifelong Grinch. I asked him if he had any advice for a man like me. He seemed taken aback. “Forgive me for getting personal here,” Weaver said. “But you must not be Christian then. It all starts with your heart—it has to be in the right place to be able to enjoy Christmas.” Weaver told me in his friendly Midwest accent that he puts all these lights out to celebrate the birth of Christ. Weaver said it went beyond the lights. “It’s about meeting people and communicating with my neighbor,” he said. “It allows me to preach the Gospel of Christ, even to a Grinch like you.”

I tried to get my friends to accompany me on the trip, but no one would come. I headed to the neighborhood, off Honore, a week before Christmas. At night, you can make out red and blue ambient light as you approach the roundabout that leads into Cedar Hollow. As I turned into the neighborhood, I felt the pressure to really enjoy these lights. 

When you get to the display you see the arches strewn with lights. There are 107 in total. It’s like driving into a Christmas wormhole. The roofs of homes are sheeted with stringed lights. Some houses are more subtle than others, but some go really big. The traffic wasn't quite bumper to bumper, but it crept along like a car wash machine. Two young men in a golf cart weaved their way around the traffic while blasting a Lil’ Wayne song from a bluetooth speaker. I’d say less than half of the houses openly participate in the festivities. I wondered if they have trouble sleeping with all the lights and cars passing through. 

As I turned the loop, a towering monolith came into view. It is a 40-foot-tall inflated Santa Claus. I wondered if it passed Federal Aviation Administration regulations. Then I wondered how much it cost. I looked it up online. It’s $3,359.99. I got out of my car and knocked on the door of the house with the massive decoration. A woman cautiously cracked open the door. “Can I help you?” she asked. I told her I was from Sarasota Magazine and wanted to ask her about the giant Santa on her lawn. “Why would you want to do that?” She responded from the dark. “I don’t want my name in the paper.” I told her I’d respect her anonymity despite the giant Saint Nick in her front yard.

The most impressive display was an oak tree covered in blue lights from root collar to branch. The effort itself was something to behold. It was carefully and evenly wrapped and must of have taken hours to finish. Beneath the tree was a manger scene in all white. This was Weaver’s home. “I don’t do the inflatable decorations,” he said. 

Ron Weaver's magnificent display.

Image: Isaac Eger

In spite of this elegant display of light, my heart did not grow three sizes that day, and I didn’t find the strength of ten Grinches plus two. I left Cedar Hollow and met with my Grinch friends for dinner—the same ones who had refused to join me. I told them about the lights and how extravagant they were. Everyone shared anecdotes about a neighbor's ostentatious light display, or a different subdivision they knew that was teeming with decorations. Our cold hearts glowed with the warmth of shared lament and I thought about how Weaver had said that his lights' true intention was to create community, and it had. Just maybe not in the way he thought he would. 

The Cedar Hollow Christmas lights will be on display through the New Year's weekend from 5:30 p.m. to 1 a.m.


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