Getting all lit up for Christmas

There is a rite-of-passage that we must go through at this time of year.

It is a time-honoured tradition whereby we risk life, limb, and sanity all in the name of good cheer. Hanging up Christmas lights. I just hope it was Santa Claus or someone like that who came up with the idea of hanging up Christmas lights.

We better not be risking our rational thought all in the name of consumerism. Nah, Christmas lights can’t be about consumerism. Christmas itself hasn’t been consumed by consumerism, why would the hanging of lights be?

Silly me, I don’t know what I was thinking about.

This year we purchased some of those new LED Christmas lights – the newest fad since icicle lights. You will see the LED lights around many towns this year. They are very nice. They cast a kind of eerie, neon glow. Unlike the television ads suggest (hence my confirmation this is not about consumerism), you will not fool your neighbours into thinking they are looking at the Northern Lights. Well, you might, but then you really have to start worrying about your neighbours.

The benefit to these lights is that they are very energy efficient, which is a good thing, bulbs are unbreakable, and they are supposed to be good for 200,000 hours.

Most of us won’t live that long, so how can we refute the claim? Just asking. (Okay, before you get the calculator out, 200,000 hours is 8,333 days or just over 22 years.) But that leads to another question. Don’t they think someone might want to change their Christmas lights before 22 years is up? Again, just asking.

There is something the average consumer should know about these lights. They are not all the same colour. Before you start commenting that Christmas lights should come in different colours – red, blue, green, yellow – etc., I’m talking about the particular shade.

They’re not all the same. We purchased three boxes of blue lights, which should be enough to replace the ‘outdoor’ string we bought last year that worked fine as long as it wasn’t cold or snowy (we checked the box and they said ‘outdoor’ lights).

There is also another lesson to be learned here. It’s not really a lesson, but more of a common sense suggestion. Common sense only really works if you use it.

The common sense suggestion is checking your lights before you string them up. We used common sense. We plugged in the lights before we strung them up, and they worked fine.

Then comes the rite-of-passage part – climbing the ladder umpteen dozen times to string the lights up. The risking life and limb part of this story is all about using the ladder in ice and snow, with frozen fingers and in a hurried rush because the Canucks game will be on in 10 minutes.

Everything worked just fine. It didn’t take too long to accomplish the feat and, as with all feats that go too easily, something was up.

I didn’t notice it right away, since it was still light out. However, as soon as it got dark the too-easy task took on a new light (sorry about the pun).

The lights weren’t the same colour. One string was a nice light blue; the other was definitely a shade of purple. We checked the boxes. There is nothing on the boxes saying what colour they were other than the colour picture of the bulbs. They were identical.

Out came the ladder again and I went into my best impression of Sir Edmund Hillary. The offending string came down. No problem. Off to the store we went to replace the purple lights.

The store was very accommodating and let us exchange the lights. Back home it was time to challenge Everest again. With fingers that could be used to keep fish, I reattached the lights. We zapped them with the minimal amount of electricity that they need and : the purple lights came back on. Purple? Weren’t they supposed to be blue? The second string was still blue. Yes, it was the hard way to find out that the lights are actually supposed to be purple, not blue. The blue string was the anomaly. Probably a factory defect.

At any rate, the lights endured 200,000 hours of curse words and I will be testing the unbreakable bulb theory as soon as my hands thaw out.

To the nice people at the store, I’ll be back to, probably sheepishly, exchange yet another string of lights. Merry Christmas.

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