The first depictions of The Northern Lights were cave drawings made by Cro-Magnons in 20,000 B.C. Can you imagine what they thought the lights were? Many civilizations had their explanations.
The east Greenland Eskimos thought that the northern lights were the spirits of children who died at birth. The Makah Indians from Washington believed the lights were fires in the Far North where a tribe of dwarfs boiled blubber. In ancient Finnish folklore, an Arctic fox that started fires by running on the snow, spraying up the crystals so that sparks flew off into the sky with its brush-like tail, was to blame. Northern lights were the spirits of the dead playing football with human skulls over the sky according to Inuit stories.
Today, we know that when a solar flare erupts on the sun charged gas molecules crash into the magnetized poles of the earth producing ten million megawatts of electrical power. The result is dancing vertical lights that circle the north and south polar regions. Colors range from red to a misty white. Who knew deadly gases could appear so beautiful? Ok, so they aren't deadly if you are watching them from say your backyard. However, they are if you're in a plane.
Predicting the Aurora Borealis is like a tornado, the conditions have to be just right for it to appear. Even then you have to be in the right place at the right time. Try checking the Geophysical Institute Auroral Forecast site for the best night to do some aurora watching. When you do get to see The Northern Lights, be sure and not whistle at it. The say if you do it will come down and take your soul. Better keep a mirror at your side for such occasions.
Sources: Alaska Living, Athena, Earth and Space Science for K-12, Athropolis, Wikipedia