Maybe it’s because we’re extremely careful not to waste energy otherwise — or maybe the power of holiday lights remains wired forever to childhood memory. For whatever reason, we personally still love the December drama of juicing up lights: from the simple string o’ bulbs strung through the hedge at Grandma’s to the kooky, kitschy ones on Hampden’s tree. But the dramatic lighting of the elegant Washington Monument is always our favorite eclectic/electric early event of the season. A Monumental Occasion, which runs 5:30 to 8 this evening, marks the 40th year of the stunning ceremony, which lately really packs the people, a fun range of young families, funky artists and on-their-way-home working stiffs, and features performances worth witnessing — not to mention triple-bright, Christmas-cliche-bursting fireworks.

Coordinated by the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore with the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts and the Department of Recreation and Parks, tonight’s event will be presided over by former Ravens star kicker Matt Stover, who’ll flip our switch at 7:45 on the dot, simultaneously lighting the majestic monument and cuing artful fireworks. Arrive ahead of the brief light show to catch live music by the Baltimore City College Choir and the Institute of Notre Dame Select Choir and to avoid a last-minute crush to find your spot. Last year the busy bustle of folks just felt like one more harnessing of power. But add too many to the mix and the scene could seem overwhelming.

Parents and little kids, you’ve got a somewhat less crowded option down the block: Tonight, the Walters will host a special free Family Festival event to coincide with the Washington Monument’s lighting. Call (410) 547-9000 ext. 300 or visit online to learn more about the evening’s performances, refreshments, holiday films and winter-inspired art activities for children.

For more information on A Monumental Occasion, call 1-877-BALTIMORE or go here.