The Spirit of The Woodlands Community Shines in Creek Pines
If you live in The Woodlands, you probably know of "The Christmas Street", a neighborhood in Panther Creek in which the streets are lined with green lights, and almost every house is decorated festively with lights and various Christmas themed decorations. But do you know the story behind this community’s tradition, and how it all got started? The Woodlands' Marlies Fitch-Ledbetter explored this story through interviews with residents of Creek Pines.
It all began back in 2001. After Cort Martin, a Senior at The Woodlands High school, passed away in a tragic car accident, Mark “Homer” Holmes noticed Cort’s father Tim out late putting up Christmas lights. Homer and some neighbors came together and decorated their homes on Tangle Brush in remembrance of Cort, who loved Christmas lights, and as a way to spend time with and comfort their neighbor during a rough time. The Cort Martin Memorial Scholarship at Lonestar College-Montgomery was established in his name.
In the beginning it was just a few houses. That year, they won The Woodlands’ annual Holiday Lighting and Decorating contest. They didn’t even know there was a competition.
“We were sitting over here with a fire at the Martin’s yard and a firetruck pulls up, ‘they're coming to put your fire out Martin, they're coming to put your fire out,’ I said… and they gave us a reward for being the best decorated neighborhood,” said Homer to Marlies Fitch-Ledbetter with The Woodlands in Focus.
After winning the award, several additional neighbors began asking how they could participate in honoring and remembering Cort. The neighborhood, or “hood,” as Homer calls it, almost all chipped in for green lights to line the edges of the front yards in the neighborhood. The next year, 52 out of 54 front yards were lined with the green lights. The Creek Pines neighborhood includes Tangle Brush Drive, Amara Court, and Cape Chestnut Drive.
To take a virtual tour of the lights with musical accompaniment by The Woodlands' own Monica Matocha, watch the video below:
“It was kinda fun, next thing you know we went with the green light theme, and we thought about lighting the street…it was the Martins' idea,” said Homer.
“When someone new moves into the neighborhood you give them a warning, and it's kinda been an unwritten rule, when you leave the neighborhood, you leave your green lights for your perimeter. So when we moved in we didn't have to purchase any because they were here,” said Kevin Curry, another neighbor of The Christmas Street.
What started with just some strips of green lights and a few well decorated houses, soon developed into a friendly competition and tradition amongst neighbors. “People started coming up with secret weapons, ‘oh we have a secret weapon this year,’ ‘oh you have a 10 foot Grinch?, well I have a 12 foot snowman,’” said Miki Holmes, Homer’s wife.
Another part of the decor that makes The Christmas Street so impressive are the colorful lights wrapped around several trees up to 80 feet high. To get the lights up there, the neighborhood rents a cherry picker every year. Over the years they have developed a technique that uses pulleys and nylon ropes to get the lights down after the holidays, so the cherry picker is only needed to put them up.
These days Homer has taken on the role of supervisor, handing down the decorating wisdom he has acquired over the years to the next generation of younger neighbors so they may carry on the tradition. “As the neighborhood grows and the lift goes, and Homer knows how to run it, I have to train,” he said.
The Christmas Street’s traditions entail more camaraderie than just decorating though. Every year during the Christmas season neighbors come together as a community around fires in their yards and driveways. The year after Cort’s passing, his mother discovered an organization called The Compassionate Friends that is about providing “personal comfort, hope, and support to every family experiencing the death of a son or a daughter, a brother or a sister, or a grandchild, and helping others better assist the grieving family.”
Miki volunteered to host the Compassionate Friends gatherings in her driveway in 2001, and has done so every year since. On the second Sunday of every December, neighbors gather at the Holmes’ to light candles and share stories and memories about neighbors and family members who have passed away over the years.
“Unfortunately there have been a lot of people…in the last 18 years we've added four or five or six people to the people we remember who've passed. It started as people who've lost children and now it's like everybody we remember was somebody's child. It doesn't matter if you were 15, 17 or 70, you were somebody’s child,” said Miki.
This year, neighbors on The Christmas Street are honoring their neighbor Carol Mann who passed away last May at the age of 77 and loved participating in the neighborhood’s traditions.
“Last Christmas, I said ‘Carol we are ready to put your lights up, you got them ready to go, you got them out of the garage?’ ‘Well I don’t know Homer, I don’t know if I’m going to put them up this year,’ she said, and I said ‘Why not? but I understand.’ A day later she calls me and she goes, ‘Let’s be kids again,’ ” said Homer.
“She loved Christmas and she needed help getting Christmas lights out into her driveway and around her house. So the Mocks, Scotty Alexander and all of us, everybody would go down there and help, and she was particular too,” said Miki.
When Carol passed, her family came to The Woodlands and decided to donate all of her Christmas decorations to the neighborhood. Now her hope, joy and peace signs are displayed in various neighbors’ yards.
“A lot of us have something of Carol’s in our Christmas decorations. So Carol is all over the neighborhood. She’s remembered everywhere and everyone has their special little thing. It’s really nice,” said Miki
The residents of The Christmas Street also spoke about how thankful they are to have been blessed with such a tight-nit community and all the things they have enjoyed about living in The Woodlands.
“There are neighbors who were looking for a solid neighborhood with a good community with kids and good schools. And remember, we live in the ‘holy triangle,’ ” said Homer referring to the fact that their neighborhood is surrounded by three different churches. “It’s very safe and we all look out for each other. That’s what it’s about. That’s what it has become… It's all about community… We could live a lot of places other than here, but we elect not to,” he said.
“It is, we sit out here and you see kids looking out of cars and seniors in those senior busses, you see hayrides, you see carolers… this is the place to be,” said Miki.
Homer also spoke to what The Woodlands was like in 2001, and how nicely it has developed over the years. “Back then we didn’t have a lot of amenities… We had restaurants like Hyden’s and Amerigo’s I think and there were a few others but not much choice. No mall, no anything of that nature… The Woodlands back in the days didn’t have the Town Center that they talked about back then and we have today, it’s so nice to see the dreams of Mitchell come through,” he said.
Sandy and Dewey Lockwood, who have lived on The Christmas Street since 1989, also shared a story. “Sandy was a flight attendant before retiring, and she had a flight attendant tell her she would bring her kids down the street every night. When she was trying to convince her younger kids to behave, she would say ‘if you don't behave we're not going down the street tonight,” said Dewey.
“And they were little angels, they ate their dinner and did their homework, and you know they grew up that way, and it was just wonderful. It's a wonderful place to live,” added Sandy.
MJ, another neighbor and Kevin’s wife, also spoke about some of the things she has enjoyed while living on Tangle Brush Drive in The Woodlands. “We've enjoyed it. We love the camaraderie amongst the neighbors, even when it isn't Christmas time. Like hurricanes... we all had walkie talkies, we talked amongst ourselves when the wind was coming in, everybody was getting scared, but we comforted each other. We knew we had each others’ backs. Trees went down, neighbors checked on each other, and when the rain stopped people came out with chainsaws and were clearing the streets. We were fortunate to have great neighbors, everybody was out helping each other out,” she said.
“It's nice. Any given day, from Thanksgiving to the first of the year, you can be walking down the street and somebody will have a fire pit going in their driveway and you can stop by and have something to drink. A lot of times on the weekends we will sit out and there will be a steady flow of traffic and kids. We've gotten a tradition of getting big boxes of candy canes and handing them out to the kids. People really seem to appreciate it, and it makes it all that much more meaningful that we do this,” said Kevin.
“And they're yelling from their cars, thank you, thank you, we love your lights. That makes us happy,” added MJ.
Speaking on The Woodlands as a whole, MJ also said “I've been here since 1981 when there was hardly anything out here. It's different from Houston, neighbors really watching over neighbors, and the amenities out here are great, we have all the trails, parks, unique parks, the programs out here, all the events, you have the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. I mean everybody comes out to the Pavilion, and we have it in our backyard. We have a nice mall as well.”
“Very well organized and well-kept community,” Kevin added.
If you need help with your own Christmas lighting and decor, contact The Perfect Light today!