Spreading Holiday Magic: A Cranford Mom and Son Illuminate Gratitude Through Festive Homes
Join us this holiday season as we delve into the heartwarming story of Becky and her 4 ½-year-old son, Jax, on a mission to infuse their community with holiday cheer and gratitude through their project, @BellsandLights. In this exclusive blog interview, discover the genuine journey of this dynamic mother-son duo as they capture the magic of the season through locally decorated homes. From cozy streets to heartfelt thank-you notes, Becky and Jax are bringing a touch of warmth and appreciation to Cranford, one festive house at a time.
Please introduce yourselves! Tell us a little bit about you, your son, and why you love Cranford!
My name is Becky and I have a 4 ½ year old son named Jax. We are Cranford residents, and I had the pleasure of growing up in Cranford. We love Living In Cranford for many reasons: safety, community involvement, festive activities downtown, bike paths, local parks, homes, shopping and dining, the list goes on and on…
How did you come up with the idea of capturing images of locally decorated holiday homes and turning them into a gratitude project?
I’ve always been so attracted to decorating and festivity, I can remember as a child seeing decorated homes and thinking to myself, “Wow! I really want to thank the person who did that!” As an adult, I realized a note would be a friendly way to express my gratitude, especially if the person was not home at the time. The idea of capturing it in an image was to elevate my thanks, to illustrate that the lights/décor have a lasting impact on (me) people and their feelings! The @BellsandLights project unfolded on its own and I am optimistic it will continue to evolve as time goes on.
Can you tell us about the first home you photographed for your project? What inspired you to start this tradition?
The first home I photographed was in Fanwood (Fanwood’s Famous Christmas House ), notorious for a big light display and collecting donations. I was inspired to start this as a mother-son bonding activity and to find a different way to spread holiday cheer that was not about money or materialism. This tradition is important to me to show my son a different, relatively simple, way of spreading happiness throughout the holidays.
What is your favorite part of photographing these holiday homes? Is there a specific theme or style you enjoy capturing?
My favorite part of photographing holiday homes is getting to mirror the holiday cheerfulness of those who decorate. Above all else, I love everything about seeing the creativity and unique styles of decorating people have. I am always amazed at what people come up with! There is no specific style we go by. It’s not really about extravagance (although that’s wonderful, too!), it could be something different, or a theme is always fun to see (my son has been favoring the Grinch this year).
How do you choose the homes to photograph for Bells and Lights?
We go for walks and it’s about what’s geographically close by – if we happen to see a house that we like while on the road, we may pull over and “feature” that home. If a homeowner/decorator reaches out to me directly via Instagram, we prioritize going there. Of course, my 4-year-old son plays a huge role in spotting the houses!
Featured homeowners love the Bells and Lights gratitude project
For Christmas 2022, we happened to stumble upon a house in Garwood with a TON of blow-ups, lights, and holiday spirit so we gave them a thank you note. To my happy surprise, they messaged me on Instagram and asked us to come check out their decorations again for Halloween 2023. I was so delighted they reached out; it meant a lot that they even remembered the @bellsandlights Instagram account months later!
Bells and Lights thank you notes to the homeowners are simple and sweet
Well, it’s pretty easy to thank them – the hard part is not being redundant! I have notes I print to save time, but in a perfect world, I would write them by hand. Maybe next season!
Have you received any special responses or feedback from the homeowners you’ve photographed?
I unknowingly handed a thank you note to a fantastic Cranford resident (fun fact: it was my assistant, Andrea) who writes articles for Sharon Steele’s 365 Cranford Westfield NJ. Being asked to share my story has been a huge honor for me, and the most special response I’ve received yet!! (We could not be happier to feature YOU!)
Instagram and social media play a role in sharing the Bells and Lights gratitude project with a wider audience
Honestly using social media was not intended to gain a wider audience, it’s genuinely a way for people to have their hard work and energy spent on decorating their homes acknowledged in some way – it’s a method of saying “Hey, I see your effort and I want you to feel good about your creation”. I also really like encouraging others with my idea of “lighting the world with kindness” and gratitude, which seems to be pretty easy via social media.
Sharing some the lessons you’ve both learned through this project about community and gratitude
A lesson that I’ve learned is that you can never be too grateful – especially during the holiday season. Sometimes it’s not always cheerful for people and can be quite stressful. My @BellsandLights project is a way for me and my son to spread love, good spirit, positivity, encouragement, and hope to those who have decided to decorate.
How has the Bells and Lights project impacted your relationship as a mother and son team?
I think it has strengthened my bond with my son. We make wholesome memories, and it gives him a chance to learn gratitude and appreciation for himself. He can become more confident by choosing homes, encouraging him to express what makes him happy, and it’s something that he looks forward to doing together.
Is there any advice would you give to other families or individuals who want to start a similar gratitude project in their community?
My advice is to DO IT, don’t delay, don’t doubt yourself. You won’t regret the time and effort; gratitude is a source of joy and I think it magnifies positivity and attracts better things to enter your life – it’s a win-win!
Can you share the most memorable holiday season you’ve had while doing this gratitude project?
The Bells and Lights project is still young as it began last holiday season in 2022. Since then, we added Halloween which was very enjoyable. It’s hard to say what’s the most memorable holiday season because I’m truly grateful for each season!
Help spread the joy this holiday season by thanking your neighbors for their displays of cheer and light and make sure to follow Becky and Jax on their gratitude journey each holiday season! Let them inspire YOU! Thank you both for your message of kindness and joy to end this year! It’s a truly enlightening story of community love. Click Here to VIsit Bells and Lights on Instagram