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editorial | BOSTON COMMON LIGHTS

Holiday lights: the more colors, the merrier

A visit to the Christmas lights on the Boston Common is more than just a pleasant drive-by — it’s a way for suburbanites and out-of-town visitors to bond with the city. The decorations draw shoppers and tourists, helping to drive the local economy. They also serve to remind people that Boston’s historic downtown is arguably the prettiest in the country, especially at Christmas.

The annual lights display may never equal local residents’ excited childhood memories of it. Indeed, this year’s version — in which each illuminated tree features lights of just one hue, the strings draped loosely over their branches — has its share of detractors: To some, the trees look like partiers lurching home wearing costume beads.

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The ill-fitting fashion in which the lights are affixed is not sloppiness, explains Jacque Goddard, spokeswoman for the parks department; the lights are strung that way to avoid injuring the trees. And the fact that each tree has just one color, with no blues and pinks, “is tasteful, in our opinion,” said Goddard.

It’s certainly true that lights of all one color can look lovely. Across Beacon Street, the State House Christmas tree glows a beautiful pale blue. Along the Commonwealth Avenue Mall, the trees appear regal, if a bit rarefied, in a thousand points of white.

Goddard, for her part, says her department seriously considers residents’ comments when deciding on lighting schemes. “We would welcome any suggestions and creative ideas, and now is the time to make them because we will be putting this contract out [for the next holiday season] in the next several months,” she says.

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