By DARREN HANDSCHUH
Christmas is the time of year of good will toward man, woman, child and, yes, even in-laws.
It is also the time of year hydro executives salivate over.
Throughout the land, countless thousands of people brave the winter chill to get their festive lights strung up in hope that St. Nick will be able to use them as landing lights and visit their home.
Around my homestead, the tradition of putting up the lights unfolds much in the same manner every year. First, I dig through a stack of boxes at the back of the garage looking for the ones marked ‘outdoor lights.’
Of course, I forgot that I forgot to mark them last year, so I get to open every box I think might hold the beacons of the Yule Tide until I get the right one, which is, of course, the last one.
I then hoist the 40-pound ball of green wire and little lights out of its summer hiding spot and spend the next five hours trying to untangle them.
The good-cheer-o-metre is already falling a notch or two as I struggle to separate one set of lights from the other.
For a brief moment I contemplate simply hanging the entire ball of lights from the apple tree in my front yard and calling it art Noel.
The tangle would represent the chaos that can come with Christmas and the lights are beacons of hope in the midst of modern-day madness.
You’re right, I am not buying it either.
Once the lights are untangled and the appropriate amount of ‘special’ eggnog consumed, it is time to put up the glowing orbs of merriment.
Here is where I will impart a piece of wisdom I learned the hard way: always make sure the lights work before you string them up.
After spending hours untangling and stringing the lights, the good-cheer-o-metre takes a serious hit when you plug them in and only half of them work.
Some very un-Christmas like words may form in the back of you mind and you risk being put on the naughty list if those words should accidentally slip out.
Years ago, my wife and I decided we would buy one strand of lights for each Christmas we shared together and then when we are old and grey we can look at all the lights and think, “I am waaaay to old to be climbing an ice-covered ladder in the middle of winter to put these up.”
Or something like that anyway.
We kept the tradition of purchasing a single strand of lights and after a while the front yard was looking pretty good.
However, I began to notice a flaw in the plan. The more lights we got, the more work it was putting them up and the more time I had to spend outside in the cold plugging things in, wrapping them with electrician’s tape and spending countless hours searching for that one burned out bulb.
That messed up bulb has been my festive nemesis on more than one occasion and the longer it takes to find the problem, the more impact is has on the good-cheer-o-metre.
But thankfully, there are people out there who are like a secret Santa with a desire to help and save me from at least some of that work.
Once, such a special person visited our festive display under cover of night and relieved me of a lot of work by running off with several strands of light.
My son was heading to school the next morning and asked, “Hey, dad, what did you do with the lights?”
OK, that’s not exactly what I said, but it was pretty close. About three strands of lights had been ‘liberated’ from our front yard.
The good-cheer-o-metre took a definite hit, but in keeping with the love of the season I got over the act of a Scrooge and thought, “Oh well, they must have needed them more than I did.”
That’s what I thought, honest.
Despite the act of Grinchery by unknown bad guys, we continued with our humble decorations.
But of course, there is always that one guy in the ‘hood who has more decorations than Santa’s workshop.
You know the guy. He has so many lights UFOs think it’s a homing beacon.
With around seven-million lights, 4,000 figurines and at least 500 Santas of all shapes and sizes, the yard lights up the night sky to the point where you need sunglasses just to drive past. It generates so much heat the snow is starting to melt four houses down.
It is without question the brightest and boldest house in the ‘hood.
I wonder if he is compensating for something.