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The comfort and joy of Christmas lights

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I have to be honest. I’d prefer a shorter winter with less snow, a winter in which one can step out the door and pick fresh holly or other greenery. A month of true winter weather spanning the holiday season would be enough for me. I’m West-Coast born and raised and, despite a quarter century spent in this city with winter in its nickname, my heart is elsewhere from November through March. 

In spite of my whinging, a part of the prairie winter thrills me every year. It’s the outdoor Christmas lights – more specifically, Christmas lights backlit by snow.

A garden design maxim says if you want an eye-catching pop, use white-flowering plants. Here, as a matter of course, Mother Nature lays down a whole blanket of white. All we need to do is accessorize with complementary lighting.

The prairies don’t have the monopoly on holiday lights. Across the country and indeed around the globe, efforts to brighten this period of short days and darkness are strung in wild, colourful abandon. But without snow, these lighting displays fall flat. Santa and his reindeer were never meant to race across green lawns or xeriscaped deserts. 

The putting-up-the-lights task falls toward the bottom of the autumn check-list, with preference given to a sunny weekend in late October. It’s always easier to do if you can still feel your fingers. Ladders are extended; strings of lights are pulled from attics and basements, untangled and tested.

We cheerfully climb higher than our comfort level to festoon the house, the shrubbery and anything else that doesn’t move. Hockey sticks attached to broom handles aid in placing the strings of lights around the fir tree that seems taller and wider in girth than last winter.
Surreptitious glances are cast at the neighbour’s house to ensure our own winter castle holds up against their efforts. 

There is always some new lighting product on the market; icicle lights, streaming lights, branch lights and those crumpled piles of colourful fabric that puff up when plugged in, bringing Grinches, Santas and reindeer to frightening heights. Regardless of the decorating style, their light will be reflected back at us as they nestle against and under the first blanket of snow. It’s such a warm feeling — warmth of the kind that can’t be found on the West Coast.


Pat Kelly is a community correspondent for Whyte Ridge. She can be reached at leeandpat2@shaw.ca

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