AT this time of year, hundreds of cars cruise Canberra’s suburban streets to look at the spectacular (and less spectacular) displays of festive decorations, but who are the people with the time, money and motivation to pull it all together?
One house in Pearce is decked out with 15 Christmas trees, more than 100,000 lights and 1.5 km of electrical wiring. For the owner, 30-year-old public servant Chris Burritt, it’s the greatest source of joy.
“Lots of people think I’m a nut or a crazy, but I have a passion for Christmas lights,” he says.
For the past five years he’s been doing it, starting out with 15,000 lights and gradually building up each year.
As a child, Chris travelled a lot, thanks to his father’s work, and spent Christmases in England and the US, where Christmas lights were big.
“I attended seven different primary schools by the time I reached year 7,” he says, explaining that his travels have inspired him to recreate the Christmas scenes from his childhood.
In his yard this year, there’s a full-length sleigh with nine reindeer, an igloo with Santa’s helpers in there and a nativity scene – and he’s built it all himself: “It’s my artistic side coming out. It allows me to be creative,” he says.
For Chris, it’s like having a second job at this time of the year. After weeks of preparation, the lights go up from November 25 and he takes them down the day after Boxing Day.
And after years of Christmases spent abroad, he’s very much committed to staying at home now.
“It’s an unfortunate fact for the family that everything now revolves around the Christmas lights,” Chris laughs.
In the week before Christmas, he dresses up as Santa and hands out candy canes to visitors.
He says there are between 200 and 300 cars drive past each night in December.
What must the neighbours think? “The neighbours enjoy it,” he insists, saying they often gather outside Chris’ house discussing ideas for the next year’s display.
“Last year I received a letter in the mail from a stranger, thanking me for putting the joy into Christmas,” he says.
“There’s nothing better than sitting inside on the couch hearing people say: ‘Wow’.
“I want to try to make it special, so you get an experience when you come.”
See Chris Burritt’s efforts at 32 Blackburn Street, Pearce. This year the display is raising money for Make a Wish. Donate at everydayhero.com.au/pearcelights2012