Jack Knox: We're going full Griswold to make up for COVID Christmas

Jack Knox mugshot genericRage, rage against the dying of the light. — Dylan Thomas

We’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny [bleeping] Kaye. — Clark Griswold

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This is the season when orthopedic surgeons get rich.

Really, I met one who swore he’d be reduced to picking pop cans out of the ditch were it not for wobbly men climbing wobblier ladders to put up Christmas lights. This year, he might buy a Porsche.

For outdoor Christmas decorations are a hot item in Victoria stores right now, flying off the shelves like 30-roll packs of triple-ply Purex were in March. Call-it pandemic push-back: People are lighting up early to offset the Grinchier side of COVID Christmas.

“It is crazy for Christmas lights right now,” says Maurice Saindon, the general manager of the Canadian Tire in Langford. Trees are big sellers, too. “Everybody’s decorating early.”

Usually the Christmas stuff starts pouring out the door in early December, but this year the surge began right after Remembrance Day.

It’s not just that British Columbians are buying decorations sooner. They’re also buying more of them. “With the majority planning on spending more time at home, about 20 per cent plan to do more decorating indoors and outdoors this year to create some holiday cheer,” found a B.C. Hydro report released Tuesday.

It’s not hard to find examples of that. Alexis Dumaresq, a mother of two interrupted while shopping for lights at Capital Iron’s downtown store on Tuesday, is typical. A Saturday visit to Butchart Gardens got scuttled by B.C.’s newest coronavirus restrictions, she said. Ditto for a planned weekend with family in Vancouver. So Dumaresq decided to compensate by giving the kids some holiday magic at home. Others have similar stories.

Capital Iron owner Mike Black has noticed the early appetite for Christmas decorations. Some of that he puts down to consumers learning to not delay their holiday shopping in a time of shaky supply chains. “If you see it, you better buy it, because it might not be here tomorrow,” he says.

But, yes, there’s also a desire to balance a cruddy year with over-the-top holiday displays, echoing what is being reported from San Antonio, Texas, to London, England.

It’s similar to what we saw this Halloween, when Victoria’s backyard fireworks rivalled 1968’s Tet Offensive for intensity and duration. After I wrote that the excessive pyrotechnics might lead to a municipal crackdown, several readers were moved to suggest that since I had nothing between my ears, perhaps I should just stick a candle in my head and use it as a jack-o-lantern. Their point was that with so many of life’s fun bits flushed down the COVID crapper, the kids deserved something special. The No Fun Police need not get involved.

This sentiment was echoed in North Vancouver on Monday when city councillors wisely distanced themselves from a proposal to make homeowners turn off their outdoor Christmas lights at 11 p.m. There might be valid arguments for such a requirement, but few people want to hear them, not this year. Had council gone ahead with the idea, the brightest light in the North Van sky might have been the glow from city hall being torched by a mob.

OK, but what about concerns about excessive energy use? “Elaborate holiday displays account for about three per cent of the provincial electricity load during the holiday season,” the B.C. Hydro report states. “This number is expected to grow this year as British Columbians ramp up their holiday décor.” It said about 60 per cent of us plan to put up outdoor lights, including 10 per cent who “plan to put up more than 10 strands of lights on average for a Clark Griswold-style mega display.”

The best way to cut electricity usage is to ditch your incandescent lights, which are up to 90 per cent less efficient than LEDs. “If you operated six strands of traditional incandescent holiday lights for six hours a day through the month of December, and the price for electricity was 8.27 cents per kilowatt hour, it would cost you over $23 dollars to run your holiday lights,” B.C. Hydro says. “Six LED strands, on the other hand, would cost you just 28 cents.”

Christmas is one month from today. On your mark, get set, glow — but be careful on that ladder.

jknox@timescolonist.com

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