Wednesday, 12 December 2012 15:16

Christmas Lights in Alberta

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Not many people can capture the Christmas spirit in thousands of tiny, sparkling bulbs quite like my Grandpa Larry. The man makes the most elaborate homes out of Christmas movies look like an amateur job.  


Winter Solstice in south central Alberta is probably too many hours of daylight for his liking. When 4:30 rolls around and the sun is tucking itself in for the night, Grandpa is just pulling out his sunglasses. The man has a zillion watts of lights strategically placed around his farm to make your eyes burn and the sun going down is the pinnacle in his day, simply because it's time to plug in a bit of a Christmas show.

Grandpa's immaculate home place is enveloped by crop land and is happily invisible from any main highway. The fact that it's a back road beauty doesn't deter Grandpa from putting on the best light show around. As a little girl, I can remember the wonder of a giant star on top of Grandpa's shop, pumping out music and lights rhythmically dancing to the beat - long before the time anyone else would have done this sort of thing. As an adult, I can now fully appreciate the work that Grandpa puts into his festivities, and can also see a bit of the madness in his ways.

Years ago, when one of the local hardware stores had a deal on where you could exchange your old Christmas lights and get a deal on a string of LED lights, I could tell Grandma was getting mildly annoyed with the hoards of lights that kept coming home from town. Grandpa soon quit making excuses to head into town, he just did, it was another trip for lights and no one asked any questions. Although, just to be clear, Grandpa's Christmas lights aren't just about quantity, but to this perfectionist, quality reigns. Months before Christmas, Grandpa Larry starts to pull out the boards that are all numbered, to know which one to hang between what column on the deck of their home. You wouldn't just hang lights all willy nilly, you know, but they must be neatly strung on a board so they aren't all floppy like. No amount of effort is spared. If it takes the gas powered cherry picker (with not a cherry to be found for hundreds of miles, unless you call the twenty five thousand light bulbs cherries) to deck the tractor out, or reach the top of the shop, then so be it. I think when you ask us grandchildren about Grandpa's occupation, we won't say much about grain farming, but we'd shout "Christmas light magician! "

Last year we all were concerned when Grandpa fell off the ladder when stringing his infamous Christmas display. The only thing Grandpa was concerned about was getting the rest of the lights up.  When he realized Grandma was fit as a fiddle and his instructional voice wasn't the least bit impaired - Christmas light fixing continued. This year, when telephone poles were pushed into the ground between the garden and the trees north of the house, to hang huge cables on, our family didn't even bat an eye. We almost felt like daring Grandpa, "What? You're just doing a row of little old light's there? Come on!"

I come by my love of Christmas lights honestly and always appreciate those that spend the time to decorate with such fervour  Every year we'd drive into the local small town to look at lights. It didn't hurt our feelings that there were only three streets and only a hand full of houses had lights up, it was the merriment of it all really,  possibly the hot chocolate after.

A few years ago the token John Deere salesmen, a favourite man in the area, put the most effort in of us all. He may or may not have taken every single blue bulb off the New Holland dealership's tractor that was all lit up in town, and replaced each bulb - with a bright green bulb of course! This is the kind of effort I'm talking about! The effort I applaud! I am thinking my grandpa and the John Deere salesman should get together, with Grandpa's vision and tenacity, and the John Deere salesman's jokester ways they could nearly make the coffee shop sing with stories.

As you contemplate your Christmas lights for the upcoming years, remember the wonder in the children's eyes. As much as Grandpa Larry would beg to differ, they don't have to be perfect, they just have to be bright.

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