They were street decorations, put up by the town to make the holiday season more festive. They were supposed to make people cheerful. Cheerful people shop more -- at least, that was the assumption.

Some towns had colourful garlands swagged above and across Main Street from a lamp post on one side to a lamp post on the other. Some of these had electric lights powered by one of the lamp posts. Sometimes there were large, light-up stars in the middle of each garland, right above the centre of the street. While they made Main Street look like a Warsaw Pact parade route, no one seemed to mind. Townspeople pointed with pride, year after year, at their big red and white stars.

The next town might have snowflakes, or candles, or Santa and the sleigh. Committees were struck to decide amongst the many options available. Towns vied for Christmas light supremacy, convinced that this would drive local commerce, which is, after all, the whole point of the holiday.

Our town had angels. Pairs of angels, each silently blowing a trumpet. The angels faced each other and hung high over the middle of Main Street. They had lights, too. The angels wore tinsel gowns edged with white lights. Their tinsel horns glowed with fiery gold.

The most wonderful thing about these angels was their shape. They were curved like a smile. Their backs were joyously arched -- like Chagall dream figures, floating above the hurrying shoppers. With the noise of the street, you didn't really notice the trumpets were silent.

But at night, when the cars were gone and the shoppers home and exhausted, the angels were still there. Lit up and mute. The only sound they made was a sad creaking as the wind rocked them back and forth over the street.

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