702 Clarendon Blvd, Carolina Beach NC
As a child, I recall loving everything about Christmas: shopping for the tree, the lights, the ornaments, the presents, Christmas vacation, the nativity plays at church, along with the store and town decorations to name a few. By the time I was 7 or 8 years old, I was dragging out the Christmas lights in October to make sure every bulb was going to be working when my dad would let us put out the lights and decorate the Christmas tree. December 12th was the magic date my father chose to be the earliest date we could put up the Christmas tree. I couldn't wait for that day to arrive. Looking back now, I know the hot C7 lights were a fire hazard after a couple of weeks on a dry tree.
Back in the 60's on Carolina Beach, not too many people decorated the outside of their home for Christmas. Maybe a few wreaths and garland were out there, but I was looking for the lights! The Ferris family had the best outdoor decorations, by far, year after year. They had 15-20 lighted decorations in their yard along with lights. All the kids wanted to see their house. The town of Carolina Beach and Kure Beach strung Christmas lights over the road and put up big trees at Harper & Lake Park (Carolina Beach) and K & Lake Park (Kure Beach). The city of Wilmington decorated Front St while Belk's had the best Christmas window displays in the downtown area. Also, Wilmington had 'the World's Largest Living Christmas Tree', which I had to visit every year. I wasn't sure if the Santa at the tree or the one at Sears in the Hanover Shopping Center was the 'real' Santa.
After I moved out of my parents home, I kept up with the interior decorations but not much on the exterior. (Maybe a few electric candles in the windows.) But, as the kids got a little older, I started putting up a few decorations in the yard. My kids loved our 'tree' in the yard, which was just an 8 foot piece of PVC with strings of lights going from the ground to the top of the pole.
As the years have gone by and the kids have grown up and moved on, I found that decorating the exterior of the house and watching the cars with kids drive by has brought back fond memories of my childhood and taking our kids to see the lights. After a friend showed me a few videos of Christmas lights animated to music, I was hooked. In 2008, I purchased my first controller that allows 16 different things to be turned off and on and be made brighter or dimmer. I spent weeks programming the lights to blink to the music and put a stereo on the front porch so people could hear the music as the lights blinked. Over the next 2 Christmas seasons I added more controllers, more lights, a Nativity Scene, a sign to help people find the music on the radios in their cars, and a FM transmitter that broadcasts the music for the Christmas display about 200 feet around our house. This year will be no exception. We plan to add another 16 channel controller to light a star over the nativity scene and 6 mini trees that will be able to change color from white to colored lights.
People often ask how many lights do I have in the yard? I think this year will be around 14,000. They also ask how much is your electric bill? It's actually a lot less than people think because the lights are only on for a few seconds at a time unlike static displays where the lights are always on. I would guess my bill to be about $50 higher in December than it would be without the lights.
Although I love the lights and the music, I would like to explain why our family spends so much time and money decorating each year. When I was a kid, almost everyone knew that Christmas was celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Somewhere along the way, Christmas has become just another holiday for businesses to make money. Although I'm not against having traditions like Santa Claus, many children and even some adults don't know the true meaning of Christmas. Over 2000 years ago, Jesus, the Son of God, was born in Bethlehem, a small town outside of Jerusalem. He lived a perfect life, never committing any sin like lying, cheating, or stealing which every other person has done. Although he committed no crime, he was beaten and murdered. After he was dead for 3 days, God raised him from the dead to live forever more. Since God demands perfection from anyone to enter his presence in heaven, no one would be able to go. But God, even though his holiness demands perfection, showed his love by sending Jesus because he wanted us to be with him. So, he sent Christ to die for every person, that whoever would believe that they are a sinner and Jesus died in their place, could live with God forever. Because of the love of God for the whole world, we proudly decorate our house each Christmas to celebrate the birth of the one who died for us.
Check out our interview with Maxann Keller of the Wilma Magazine for the December 2011 issue of Wilma.