Holiday Spirit (30 Days of Gratitude: Day 30)

The holiday season can be full of busyness — going through the list and checking it twice, without enjoying the moments along the way. A leisurely evening run with friends, with a detour on some festive paths, was a wonderful reminder of the goodwill generated by the season. Volunteers handing out hot cocoa and cookies … fire pits roaring with marshmallows for toasting … favorite holiday tunes playing as laser lights danced.

Adding to the magic of the evening was the best light of all — the luminous orb overhead, shining on the water next to the reflection of Duluth’s iconic lift bridge.

May the spirit of the season move you to pay it forward — be kind and compassionate to friends and strangers alike.

Be grateful for the reminders of what this season is supposed to be about.

~ Kat


The Importance of Holiday Magic

This year, even more than ever, we are in need of finding the magic of the holidays … that magic that helps bridge divides, smooths strained relations, allows people to set aside differences to share in the beauty of the season.

Even without snow on the ground, and the second warmest November on record, Duluth’s Bentleyville is just the place to go to kindle the often-nostalgic feelings that accompany the December holiday season.

Whether you are 2, or 20, or 20 times 4, joy fills the air as you walk through the arches of light, as Christmas classics play over the speakers.  Donations and sponsorships support the free cookies, popcorn, hot cocoa, and fire pits for roasting marshmallows! People from all walks of life come together to watch the lights dance on the 128 foot tall Christmas tree, wait patiently to talk to Santa or Mrs. Claus, or pause for one of the many photo ops.

The year-round evening illumination of Duluth’s lift bridge glows across the bay, taking a back seat to this seasonal festival of lights.

The meandering lit paths give many opportunities to reflect and be grateful — whether wandering with friends, with family, or taking time for solitary reflection. Give thanks for good health, for a roof over our heads, for love, for community. Bentleyville gives a nod to our troops, as well, with Duluth’s own 148th Fighter Wing garnering a special spot in the display.

If only for an evening, let the “Tour of Lights” push the stress and anxiety of the world’s issues to the side … Embrace the magic of the season.

Ciao! ~ Kat

This post was in response to the Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge. “It’s Not This Time of Year Without…” is this week’s theme. Everyone is welcome to join in the Challenge; further details on how to participate and links to others’ responses are found here: It’s Not This Time of Year Without ….

Merry Christmas, WordPress Friends!

May the Christmas spirit fill your day with infectious joy and peace!


Ciao! ~ Kat

Bentleyville ~ Magical Tour of Lights

Irritation festers as I am faced with Christmas holiday decorations before Halloween is even over.  I make one exception to these premature December holiday signs that I otherwise despise . . . Bentleyville.  In order to bring life to this annual magical tour of lights in Duluth, Minnesota, teams of volunteers must start constructing the scenes and stringing the lights while the leaves are still on the trees.

[photos and video from the 2011 Bentleyville Tour of Lights]

bentleyville 2 2011

Most years, our family has made Bentleyville part of our annual Christmas Eve tradition.  Santa Claus patiently sits at Bentleyville every night through December 23, but on Christmas Eve, he already has taken off for the North Pole to finish loading his sleigh for the night’s ride, leaving Mrs. Claus at Bentleyville to visit with good girls and boys (or those who still hope to redeem themselves before the night is over).

bentleyville 3 2011

This amazing light show is free to the public, with goodwill offering containers scattered throughout the site, and a list of generous sponsors who help make it possible every year.  The original generous sponsor, though, is Nathan Bentley himself – the founder and Bentleyville’s namesake.  The full history of Bentleyville is detailed on its website, starting with a modest display in Nathan Bentley’s residential yard, growing to overtake his property and require shuttle buses and volunteers to direct traffic, and ultimately outgrowing Nathan Bentley’s home, turning into a joyous community event, open and accessible to all.

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With Duluth’s illuminated Aerial Lift Bridge in the background, thousands of people from all over the state and beyond enjoy Bentleyville’s light and music show, cookies and roasted marshmallows, hot cider and coffee.  That sense of community and holiday feelings of good cheer overwhelm you as you walk through tunnels of light and listen to the excited voices of children (as well as the voices of those adults rediscovering that unique Christmas spirit) – something about Bentleyville lets us all soak up that holiday magic about which songs are written.

bentleyville 7 2011

So, forgive me for adding to the premature Christmas displays, but perhaps you also will agree that Bentleyville may be an exception, as it certainly is exceptional?

bentleyville 2011

If you happen to find reason to swing by Duluth, Minnesota this holiday season, be sure to put a walk through Bentleyville on your list of things to do while visiting.  If you are not able to enjoy this show in person, enjoy this small taste of the magic of Bentleyville from last year’s display:

Bentleyville opens for the 2012 holiday season on November 17th, and will be open daily through December 26th.  Details regarding hours, parking, driving directions and more can be found on Bentleyville’s website.

Ciao! ~ Kat