The unofficial start to the Christmas season in the Wilkesboros is Friday, in my unofficial opinion.

Not long after the sun sets Friday, it’s time for the annual Light Up Downtown event in the central business district of North Wilkesboro.

It’s always a fun night in the Key City, with hayrides, live music, dance troupes, food and holiday craft vendors and those cute downtown shops in full Christmas mode.

Two weeks later in historic downtown Wilkesboro, Christmas in the Commons arrives on Saturday, Dec. 4. It’s nearly seven hours of food trucks, live music, the lighting of the giant tree at Heritage Square, horse-drawn carriage rides and the annual Christmas parade through the towns.

The event at the Carolina West Wireless Community Commons is worth attending if only for the outstanding light display in front of the Wilkes Communications Pavilion. In particular, the cascading lights on the trees give the breathtaking (and hopeful) appearance of falling snow.

Everyone has a different take on when the Christmas season actually begins. For some, it starts on the first day of November. For others, it’s after the Thanksgiving dinner dishes have been cleared from the table.

There’s no wrong answer, but here’s another unofficial opinion: no Christmas decorating or music until the Friday after Thanksgiving. I was raised in that rather traditional manner, and that’s still my practice today.

In all honesty, my own household is far from the perfect model of holiday tradition. Some years we have a large, elaborate tree on display right after Thanksgiving; other years, it may be a Charlie Brown-type rescue that goes up a week before Christmas.

Regardless of when the tree and lights are lit, I’m looking forward to the return of a fairly normal Christmas season in my home and in the Wilkesboros. Last year’s pandemic-tainted holiday season was far from normal, to put it mildly.

In recent weeks, I’ve been thinking about when most of life’s rhythms should start returning to normal, even amidst living in a pandemic that most likely isn’t ever completely going away. Increasingly, I’m thinking the answer is now.

Like most viruses, the coronavirus will probably keep circulating, with cases rising sometimes and falling other times. But we have the tools — vaccines, along with an emerging group of treatments — to turn it into a manageable virus, similar to the seasonal flu.

Given this reality, we’ve decided to resume old activities such as our beloved holiday festivals and accept the additional risk that comes with them, much as we accept the risk of crashes when riding in cars.

Personally, being fully vaccinated and with a booster shot on the near horizon, I’ve felt emboldened to eat again inside restaurants and cover sporting events inside gymnasiums that feature (mostly) masked attendees.

I’m still going to be considerate and careful when it comes to crowds in indoor spaces, but now seems to be the time to let COVID-19 know it’s not calling the shots anymore, realizing that I’ve taken the proper steps to protect myself and my family.

So, let the holiday hoopla begin. It’ll be a series of welcomed sights, savors and sounds that will surely soothe the tattered tensions of living with a virus that isn’t just going to magically end on Christmas morning.

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