Head out to Belcarra Road to witness this beautiful Christmas light display. (Submitted)

Head out to Belcarra Road to witness this beautiful Christmas light display. (Submitted)

Sarah Simpson column: There’s nothing wrong with making new traditions

Christmas lights still shine bright, despite changes

Hello again! And Merry Christmas Eve to you all, if that’s something you’re into.

Right now I imagine all the poor parents out there, trying to keep the excitement of their children contained, or in my case, trying to convince my son that setting fishing-line trip-wires is not an acceptable way to spend the night before Christmas.

“I’m going to stay up and see him!” he argues.

“I’m going to trip and break my face before he even arrives!” I reply.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but our traditions have changed this year as a result of the pandemic. For my family, it’s meant letting go of old ones and creating some new ones in their stead.

Every year since I was 17, I’ve returned to my hometown for Christmas. This will be the first year away from my mom and sister. There’ll be no excitement of trying to jam pack the car and head to the ferry. There’ll be no worrying about the weather and whether or not the boats will run or if we could even make the drive safely to the terminal in the snow. There will be no big reunion hugs and surprises when we pile into the homes of family members on the other side. There’ll be no quick hellos before the cousins get right down to business playing video games together.

There’s this street in my hometown that always goes all out for Christmas and Halloween. (I honestly think prospective home buyers are told they must comply with the excessive decorating rituals during those seasons or they should go ahead and look elsewhere.) It’s a magical street to walk or drive up and down as a family and it’s been a tradition for years. That’s not going to happen this year.

I’ll be darned, though, if this pandemic is going to stop us from enjoying the lights!

I checked in with Kris Defrane, who has been the caretaker of the “Crazy House Lights from Shawnigan to Ladysmith” Facebook page for the last four years or so.

She said this year has most definitely been an odd one for lights.

“From what I have seen, there’s been a lot in Nanaimo but I’m not seeing a big increase in the Duncan to Ladysmith area — just the usuals that have been doing it for multiple years,” she said.

She’s noticed two trends this year:

“People who are into it put things up earlier this year,” she noted. The others don’t at all. “Maybe money concerns, maybe thinking that they won’t be showing it off to family and friends in the same way this year, I don’t know.”

My family was guilty of putting up our lights early this year. Not too early, but earlier than usual. I have no regrets. The kids love them.

Defrane’s family has been doing lights since the early 1980s so it’s just part of their Christmas now.

“Having been doing this for as long as I have, I see the shift in how people decorate,” she said. “It’s a whole new generation putting their mark on what is a light up.”

Back when I was a child, my dad used to climb the roof to put our old-school, plastic, light-up Santa near the chimney. It was always a treat to come home from a visit to Grandma’s house and see the Big Guy up there glowing from down the street.

“When we started it was all handmade stuff,” Defrane said. “Now it’s using computerized options of lighting or blow-ups. I get the blow-up use as they are convenient, but they lack the charm of the old-school cutouts and such. Computerized lights to music are the thing for many, but that is a whole different thing than someone in their garage making things from scratch.”

She’s right, but even so, my family’s personal favourite is the music and light display on Powell Street in Duncan. We are also fond of the display on Somenos Road north of Auchinachie Road. We’ve spent quite a bit of time there trying to figure out just how many Grinch blow-ups and wooden Grinch cutouts are hiding among the others on the lawn full of decorations. There are also good ones on Kingsview and Belcarra roads in The Properties if you’re ever out that way. Check the “Crazy House Lights from Shawnigan to Ladysmith” Facebook page for a great list.

Higher technology has also taken some of the creativity out of it, too, Defrane noted, adding that now decorating is a big expense instead of making decorations out of scraps.

“Blow-ups, lighted figurines, and so on are expensive,” she said.

So, here’s my thought. Not everyone can afford a massive display. Why not create a new tradition this year and make a decoration or two out of what’s laying around the house?

Just be sure not to include any fishing-line trip-wires. Santa will thank you for it.


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