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KNOX – Lighting it up at Christmas as pushback against the pandemic

Clark Griswold’s Christmas lights. (Image: Warner Bros.)

PEOPLE LIKE TO FLASH IT UP when times get tough.

The chair of the Estée Lauder board made that point 20 years ago when he coined the term Lipstick Index to describe his theory that sales of cosmetics, particularly lipstick, rise as the economy falls.

Of course, with mouths spending so much time hidden behind masks, that theory went out the window during the first year of the pandemic.

You could paint one lip bright red, the other green, and black out every second tooth and no one would be the wiser. Wearing lipstick with a mask is like going trick-or-treating in Saskatchewan, where kids have to peel off a snowsuit to show you the Halloween costume underneath.

Speaking of Halloween, many Victoria-area residents proved the flashy-in-tough-times rule last year when they went over the top with their backyard fireworks displays.

The din continued until the wee hours almost without pause, the light show shifting from street to street as households took turns lighting fuses, giving Greater Victoria’s skyline the look of London during the Blitz.

This brought an explosion (as it were) of complaints from other residents. Dogs and dog owners alike howled with dismay as the rockets went off — though when a couple of Esquimalt councillors responded by proposing to yank all fireworks permits, the pro-pyrotechnics crowd shot back.

In a year of taped-off playgrounds and home-schooling, the No Fun Police need not squelch what little enjoyment was left in kids’ COVID-constricted lives, they argued in reply to my column on the subject. Some suggested that since I had nothing between my ears, maybe I should stick a candle in my head and use it as a Jack-o’-lantern.

The same pandemic pushback applied to Christmas lights. Last December, Victorians lit up the city like Paris after the liberation. Actually, they did so in late November, not even waiting for the calendar to flip before emptying store shelves of decorations and hauling home Griswold-quality Christmas trees.

The decorating seems to have been a little slower to get going this season, perhaps because it’s hard to climb the ladder to the roofline while bailing the basement. Or maybe people have decided that with so many traditional light-up events returning, they no longer need to compensate at home.

The lighted ship parade was back Friday and the lighted truck parade Saturday. The Esquimalt light parade is at 5 p.m. tonight. So is the lighting of one of B.C.’s biggest Hanukkah menorahs, in Centennial Square. Also in Centennial Square, the Lights of Wonder display returns Dec. 16.

The lighting of the big sequoia at the legislature was postponed due to a protest rally on the grounds in November (because there’s no better way of winning support for your cause than making children cry) but will now happen Dec. 8. The Christmas Express, having been shunted to a siding by COVID last year, is back on track at Duncan’s B.C. Forest Discovery Centre.

Another possibility: Shortages and inflation might cause consumers to pull in their holiday horns a bit. This week, CKNW’s Mike Smyth posted a picture of a Christmas tree priced at $197.

Admittedly it was an exceptionally majestic specimen — the Les Leyne of conifers — but still: $197. When I first moved to Victoria, you could buy two cords of firewood for that. (BTW, let’s hope shortages of Christmas-related items don’t lead to hoarding; we wouldn’t want the province to have to step in and ration us to no more than 30 litres of rum and eggnog.)

The probability, though, is this will be the weekend the lights start to shine again. What’s the cost of flashing things up? “Elaborate holiday displays account for about three per cent of the provincial electricity load during the holiday season,” B.C. Hydro said last year.

Best to use LED lights, not less-efficient incandescents, it said. “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. Six LED strands, on the other hand, would cost you just 28 cents.”

By the way, CNN reported that lipstick sales, having plunged in 2020, rocketed up 80 per cent this spring as ’Merican masks came off. Estée Lauder was bullish on magenta, orange, bright pink and other vivid shades.

jknox@timescolonist.com

About Mel Rothenburger (8973 Articles)
ArmchairMayor.ca is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At ArmchairMayor.ca he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

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