We chat with Gayle of Craigieburn Victoria about her crazy passion for Christmas lights and bringing joy to the street at Christmas time!
Names/ages of family members
Gayle, 55 and Ken, 59 with two children, David 26 and Kara 21.
How long have you been lighting your house?
“From 1986. We have had a big tree in our front room and every year from then we would add and add and it’s just grown bigger since. Then in 1999 I made my first wooden Christmas decoration piece, a Santa’s workshop, and I would say that this year was when it started making the Christmas decorations a big thing.”
Why do you do it?
“We love giving rather than receiving. Seeing the looks on people’s faces is fantastic and we feel we are doing something really positive for the community. Every year thousands of people come and see the lights and features. Last Christmas Eve we had 200 cars parked on the street waiting to see the display. We are known in the area as The Christmas Street and people come from far and wide to see the decorations.”
How long does it take to put up and take down the lights?
“From the first week of September until October I decorate three whole rooms of the house and throughout November I decorate the outside. I am usually working a minimum of 8 hours a day.
We will start taking everything down on 27th December and everything will be taken down by New Years Eve but then we have another two weeks of putting everything into storage.”
Where do you store them all?
A lot is stored in the garage but we also have an extension to the garage where we keep the sleigh and the trees; then another garage for all the decorations and then all the fixtures and mechanics go in another area.”
Total number of lights/wattage?
“If you take everything into consideration we have about 100,000 lights. We live near a big hill called Mount Ridley and people say that they can see our house lit up from at the top of the hill!”
Total amount spent on lights over the years?
“I would not have a clue. I have three electrical trains and they are $700 each. I’ll spend $2000 on decorations every year alone. However I make all my wooden products; I go down to the scrap yard, buy timber there, and make my own. If I were to buy those new they would cost a fortune. It’s a balance - if we want something we will buy it and not worry about the expense but we also recycle and readapt a lot of existing things too.”
How many lights do you add each year?
“Probably add about 5000 each year because you have to replace broken ones and you want to add more. I am trying to phase out the older ones and bring in the new LED ones as they are more environmentally friendly. However I am still using lights from when we got married in 1974. I also used the original tree from 1974 every year until a couple of years ago when it had to be retired because it fell apart.”
Roughly how much would you spend on new lights annually?
“I purchase all year round so it’s very difficult to say. A minimum of $2000, but I have to say it could be more.”
What do the lights add to your energy bill?
“The energy bill would go up $400 for that quarter but we’re outside not inside when people come to visit so don’t use much of our indoor electricity, so I think it actually balances out.”
How would you describe your lights?
“On top of my roof I have lit Santas and reindeer, and hanging from a tree I have a massive bell about four feet high too. In the garden we have reindeer figurines and lights and the wooden features that I make. Then there is walk way across the lawn which is lit that acts like a tunnel that takes you to the blow up Xmas decorations on the lawn. On the lawn you have cut outs, an interactive sleigh, wooden features on the pathways and reindeer stables off to the right. We also have a “snow room” where we have snowing Xmas trees, Santa in a sleigh, snowmen and penguins - with the whole room being lit in blue and white. Another room will be a toy room, full of soft toys and Disney products. The front two rooms have a massive selection of trees in different colours – black, green, yellow, red – with every tree having the same coloured lights and tinsel. Everywhere you look there’ll be something that is moving, whether it is a reindeer or a Santa or some other festive feature.”
Any special features that set your lights apart?
“We have a sleigh that is huge – like the size of a Mini Cooper – and that was a huge hit with everyone last year. We bought it for $250 so it was a bargain! It needed a bit of repair, which my husband did and he put headlights on it and some interactive functions for the kids - it’s great! But the thing people comment on the most is the detail of the inside. You can interact with all the window displays, there’s always something in the window where you can push a button and it will make something move.”
Are you part of a lighting street culture, or a one off in your street?
“There are several houses down the streets that have lights but our street does tend to get into the spirit of putting up Xmas lights. We all dress up in costume here as well; I am Mother Christmas, my husband is usually an elf or Father Christmas, my daughter will dress up as an elf and the street is starting to dress up too.”
Your personal favourite light?
“I have an animated angel and every time I look at her I feel serene - so she is probably my favourite part of the display.”
Do you think you’re addicted to house lighting?
“Definitely an addiction!”
Any foreseeable end to your house lighting journey, or are you in it for the long haul?
“I couldn’t stop doing it because we would be disappointing so many other people who have been coming since they were kids and then they grow up and then bring their children. Everyone chips in everyone gets a kick out of the display - it’s not just young, it’s all sorts.”
Watch Aussie Christmas Lights on The LifeStyle Channel.
See the streets with the best Aussie Christmas Lights display in your area.
Find out more about Aussie Christmas lights on The LifeStyle Channel.