The Story of My Balcony Christmas Lights

(Not pictured: my balcony Christmas lights. Instead, look at these trees by the local hospital. I love them.)

This morning as I sit on my balcony sipping my coffee, I look at the Christmas lights I zip-tied to the railing, in an effort to echo and/or respond to the lights of my neighbours across the street.
They are clearly pros at this.
I think last year was our first Christmas here. I wanted to contribute to the festive balcony atmosphere, but didn’t know how to get my lights to stay put. I also didn’t know what kind of lights to buy.
I have a penchant for very large, colourful, bold, old-school lights, a la the 1980s. This is directly related to my childhood. One of the first great loves of my life were the lights on the Christmas tree that my mom and dad put up and decorated. I must’ve stared at them, transfixed, for many hours, because those kinds of lights are seared into my memory, eliciting feelings of love, joy, and safety.
Over time, these kinds of lights have become rare, because they suck an awful lot of electricity.
But I can still sometimes see them gracing the homes of enterprising, like-minded folk.
I once made Andrew stop the car so I could get out and race over to a woman fixing her lights, because I admired her lights so much and wanted to tell her. (I definitely startled her. This behaviour of mine is not entirely normal. But I’d say we are friends now, as she approaches me when she sees me at the MCC and whatnot, so I think she got over her initial scare.)
The lights.
I found these old school lights at Canadian Tire last November and bought lots. I then joyfully wrapped them around the balcony railing. I plugged them in that evening. Andrew and I went outside, across the street, and looked up at our condo.
Our balcony was blazing like the sun.
A square of absolutely blinding light. Incredibly attention-getting, probably very very wasteful, and decidedly un-Mennonite.
“Hmmmmm,” I said doubtfully, squinting up at my handiwork. “I’m not sure that’s okay.”
“This is embarrassing,” Andrew replied.
No one else’s balcony looked like that.
The next morning, I asked people in our building if our shocking display of Christmas lights was inappropriate. I was assured it was fine. In fact, it was a good thing!
So I left them up.
But then I encountered a new problem.
Every morning I like to sit on the balcony sipping my coffee, watching the sun rise.
Sitting near my festive lights made me happy, even though I was essentially sitting in a total light box.
However, it wasn’t long before we had an especially windy morning. I sat there in horror as the large glass lights were repeatedly hammed against the glass railing. Any moment I was sure there’d be an explosion of colourful shattered glass.
Somehow it never happened and we made it through the season unscathed. However, when I went to put up the lights again this year (if it ain’t broke YET… right?) I discovered the cords themselves no longer work very well! So I could not repeat my shocking light display.
But, I’d learned a thing or two over the past year, from discussing festive light tips and tricks with my fellow condo-dwellers.
This year I have a sedate collection of mini lights safely zip-tied to the railing with little fear a storm will destroy it.
It makes me think of all the things people don’t know when purchasing a condo. Those little inconsequential things like Christmas lights on the balcony, that could prove to be quite problematic.
It also makes me think of how much my life has shifted since my girlhood, when I felt it revolved around milking cows. It’s so strange. I’d never have predicted this future for myself when I was a girl surrounded by dairy cattle.

My balcony also lets me step out to greet festive folks such as these! (As seen last night!)

I have to be honest, my thoughts were interrupted this morning and this post feels incomplete but I wanted to say hello and share a few of my Christmas light thoughts. I will add that I absolutely love everyone’s Christmas lights and I feel the act of putting up lights for all to see, in the very darkest season, is an act of beautiful community. Thank you to everyone who puts in this lovely, generous effort!

Merry Christmas!