Christmas lights spread joy in winter

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Cancellation of seasonal celebrations due to COVID-19 may have dimmed people’s spirits this year, but some islanders are trying to brighten them with their brilliant Christmas light displays.

It’s hard to miss the 90-foot-high fir tree covered in lights at 430 Fulford-Ganges Rd., or the rest of the lights on the property owned by Racheal Doucette and Todd Mitchell.

“I like to look at it as a finger of lightning all over the yard,” said Doucette about the huge tree.

The couple’s house is framed in coloured bulbs, and this year some bright white lights mark an area where they plan to put up a fence in the new year. One tree is ringed in white and another area in red. 

“It makes me feel good every time I drive home,” she said.

How did they get the lights onto a 90-foot tree? Mitchell arguably did it the hard way back in 2017. 

“He crawled up this tree,” said Doucette. “They weren’t put up with a crane. He put them in a backpack and crawled up the tree.” 

Doucette credits Mitchell’s Mohawk heritage with his comfort with heights. Unfortunately, a non-climbing accident in 2018 put an end to his vertical expeditions, which makes it even more special that the lights can still be turned on each year.

Doucette and Mitchell learned how much the lights were appreciated following the December 2018 windstorm. Doucette said they were reluctant to plug in the lights that year because so many people on the island were without power. 

“I went to the grocery store and one of the ladies came up immediately and said, ‘I just want to thank you for putting those lights on, because we haven’t had power for 10 days,’ or whatever it was.” 

The lights can be seen from above their property on Don Ore Road and even across Ganges Harbour from Long Harbour Road.

The current site isn’t the first one the couple decorated on Salt Spring. 

“The lights being high like that in one particular tree started up on Trincomali Heights. I was kind of down in the dumps about Christmas, and I came home and noticed there were lights in the trees . . . and then I realized they were at my house. Todd had crawled up and put the lights in the trees.” 

Doucette has no idea how many lights are in the present display. 

“We keep saying we’re not going to buy any more and we keep buying more.” 

Doucette loves how the village of Ganges is all lit up and would like to see Christmas lights all the way up Ganges Hill, so is challenging people to get on board with that idea.

She thinks of her household as being in a competition with Tom and Carol Bremner, who live at 811 Fulford-Ganges Rd. and also take their decorating seriously. 

“We are both from Nova Scotia and us Maritimers love our Christmas lights,” explained Doucette.  

She grew up in Morden, a village of 250 people in the Bay of Fundy area. Her descendants have lived on the same road since 1755.

“My whole family are pretty crazy over Christmas lights too, so it’s inherited.” 

Carol Bremner is from Truro and Tom from Chester, N.S. 

“Carol and I both love lights and the Christmas season,” said Tom.

For most of the past six years the Bremners put lights on a 65-foot tree in their yard.

“This year we switched it up and did a whole bunch of lights on smaller trees,” said Tom. “In combo with the front and back yard lights we have in excess of 5,000 LED white and coloured lights.”

The Bremners usually put up their lights at the end of November and keep enhancing the display for a few more weeks until they are happy with the results. Their lights can be seen from 5 to 11 p.m. until Jan. 2 and are a favourite with neighbourhood children. 

Doucette, who owns 19B Barber Shop in Merchants Mews, has been telling her clients, “Let’s get the lights happening because we can’t do anything this year, but we can get in our cars and drive around and look at other people’s lights.” 

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