Because, as it turns out, we don't just turn on the lights downtown one day and call it good, oh no! What happens is this....
On the day after Thanksgiving, at dusk, crowds gather near a downtown department store, called Weaver's. (Which, as a point of trivia, is either the oldest or the only non-chain department store in the United States. I can never remember which, but either way it's pretty cool.) Carolers sing, people duck in and out of coffee shops for hot cocoa and cookies, and everyone anxiously watches the top of Weaver's roof.
At six'o'clock, a spotlight shines, the Christmas lights turn on, and--to the great jubilation of the crowd--Santa appears. How he is supposed to have arrived there, I can't tell you, but evidently not by reindeer because, as the story always gets told, Santa is stuck on the roof.
Not to worry though (you were worried, right?), the Lawrence Fire Department is on the way. A ladder truck with, what I can only assume are toned-down sirens, slowly drives up the street with lights flashing. A few brave firefighters ride the ladder to the top of the building, rescue Kris Kringle, and bring him down to meet with the children and hand out candy.
While the Kid and I just happened to wander into this tableau last year, this year I had it written on the calendar with very determined plans to attend. I figured the Kid wouldn't care much about Santa, of course, but such a close encounter with a fire truck was not to be missed.
And, if you'll excuse the self-congratulatory tone, I was dead right. Despite the cold and the Kid's refusal to wear mittens, he watched it all with wide-eyes. Each day since, we've heard nothing but, "And they put up the ladder, and mama and dada say, 'Yay!'"
Some day I suppose he'll probably care about Santa too.