Technology savvy Alex and Tonya light up a storm with the Christmas lights at their Frenchs Forest home in NSW.
Names/ages of family members
Alex 35, Tonya 31 and their two kids
How long have you been lighting your house?
“We have been living in house for six years, so six years putting up lights, 5 years the lights have been computerised and we started the backyard area about 3 years ago too.”
Why do you do it?
“I don’t know – we enjoy it. Xmas lights have always had a big fixture in my husband’s and my life. He proposed to me with Christmas lights. I’m originally from Ohio (which is where we met) and there’s a zoo there and during winter the zoo is open to the public to see Christmas lights, but not for the animals as it’s too cold. My husband unplugged some of their lights plugged in his own lights which spelt out “marry me”.
When Alex was growing up in Australia, Christmas wasn’t a massive big deal for his family but when we met each other in the States he fell in love with the way America really does Christmas and saw what a big deal my family made - he loved all the chaos and fun. And as we are two people who will always give 110% into anything we do so this is reflected in our Christmas display.
It’s become quite a big thing in our community and we love seeing how much the kids enjoy it and how many people turn up each year and just get pleasure out of seeing it.
We also have a wishing well where people can donate a little amount if they want to and it all goes to a local charity at the end of the holidays. Two years ago we made $5,500AUD so that is always a bonus to doing this.”
How long does it take to put up and take down the lights?
“I usually start the Christmas village in September and work on it every night for 2 hours when the kids to go to bed. But as we are getting everything ready early this year it’s going to be 8 to 10 hours every day for two to three weeks to put everything up. So far I have had three 10 hour days getting everything ready and there is a lot more to do!”
Where do you store them all?
“The Village is stored in the attic and the lights are stored underneath the house plus anywhere that we have spare storage space.”
Total number of lights/wattage?
“We now have over 100,000 lights - we’ve added about another 15,000 just this year alone.”
Total amount spent on lights over the years?
“Initial set up in the first year with all the lights and the computer was about $10-15,000, village is worth about $20,000, and we usually spend about $10,000 each year so a rough guess would be $100,000.”
How many lights do you add each year?
“Around 10,000 to 15,000 lights each year. “
Roughly how much would you spend on new lights annually?
“$10,000 per year with the first year costing a lot more.”
What do the lights add to your energy bill?
“Our bill would probably be five to 10 times more than what it should be. But the way we look at is all the people in our neighbourhood come out to look at our lights for two hours or so in the evening and during that time they have their lights off so it balances out!”
How would you describe your lights?
“The big difference with ours is that the lights flash to the beat of a song that my husband has programmed. So we have about 32 different channels; one channel with red lights, one with blue etc… with different channels flashing to different beats. Alex will spend about one hour programming about one minute of song. We will add two songs a year and he has programmed 14 songs over the years. Eye of the Tiger is one of the songs but the neighbours aren’t too keen on it and prefer stuff a little bit more Christmassy!
We also have a huge tree in the front yard which has its own channel. The porch has got a channel too – basically there’s always got to be something flashing somewhere during the song and at the end of the song all the lights will come on so everyone can see what it looks like all lit up.”
Any special features that set your lights apart?
“Other than the fact the lights are computerised, people can also tune in their radio to the music we are playing from their cars. We have an SM transmitter which transmits the music we use and they can watch the lights flash to the music from the safety of their cars.”
Are you part of a lighting street culture, or a one off in your street?
“We are definitely a one off – we’ve considered setting up a competition on our road but it hasn’t happened yet.”
What are the most popular elements of your display?
“The whole thing, but people really like the winter wonderland around the back and the village where we have a model train, ski slope, beach house and the kids love to look at the village and see if they can see any new things from last year. And in the Winter Wonderland we have lots of rope lights, blow up Santas, lots of things for the kids to see and enjoy.”
Your personal favourite light/s?
“Not really. I’m very American so I get very excited that I have a husband who likes to do this crazy stuff the same as me. I love Xmas in general so I just like the whole process of doing it all.”
Do you think you’re addicted to house lighting?
“Yes! We skipped last year because we were in the States but we still did it all there. We don’t like to let people down so now that we started we’d be devastated if we stopped. I felt guilty last year when we didn’t put them on and now so many people write it into their family tradition so we want to continue that and make this year bigger and better than ever. We are very competitive in nature too so we have to make sure our Xmas lights are always the biggest!”
Any foreseeable end to your house lighting journey, or are you in it for the long haul?
“As long as we are here we will do it. The only thing that would stop us would be if we moved overseas but I don’t think that would even stop us! Even if we moved it would be the same chaos but in a different house.”
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Find out more about Aussie Christmas lights on The LifeStyle Channel.