I used the Canon PowerShot SD550 on a tripod, with the flash turned off. That's it. And that's really all I know about how to use the damn camera that I bought a full year ago now. Oh, I suppose I know how to adjust it for macro and for what they call "portrait," in order to make the background blur, but that's really all.
Back home on the computer I used PhotoShop Elements to lighten the shadows. Again I know almost nothing about PhotoShop but lightening shadows is the one feature that's a huge improvement over the Photo Deluxe Home Edition I used for many years, which only enabled overall lightening of the whole shot. And in the case of night photos of Christmas lights, lightening the shadows made the shot look like what I saw through my own eyes that night. Cool.
Now what other feature should I be using for night photography? Someone suggested I prefocus on something completely black but honestly, that involved more finesse with the camera and tripod - in the dark - than I could muster.