Christmas Lights to the Extreme

With 30,000 Christmas lights on their Seattle home, Vikki Hoyt and her husband Lee Burns realize their holiday spirit may seem out of control.

This year, Burns even decorated the back of his roof with bulbs.

"No one will ever see them," he admitted.

Every year, Christmastime means homeowners across the country once again pour hours of hard work and megawatts of electricity into transforming their houses into glowing cathedrals of Yuletide cheer.

Jerome and Shailyn Drazkowski in Federal Way, Wash., have more than 29,000 lights and more than 100 lighted yard figurines this year, along with a bubble machine, an inflatable 8-foot snowman, Grinch, Christmas tree, polar bear, nativity scene, gingerbread village, and more.

In New Castle, Del., Rich Faucher and his wife Linda have been gradually expanding their holiday decorations for 23 years. It's now one of the most elaborate private displays in the nation, with more than 1 million lights and scores of Santas, snowmen and other figures.

The extravaganza is meant to "try and restore the spirit of Christmas as it was truly meant to be," the family says on its Web site,

For Fun, Attention, and Good

Some hard-core decorators simply enjoy the attention. A major league display can earn a mention on the local news and become a regular stop for local tour buses. Others are in it to help others.

The 100,000 or so lights adorning Joe Lester's home in Tewksbury, Mass., help raise money for charity every year. This year, Lester is donating the money raised from visitors to help Stephanie O'Neil, whose husband Dennis was killed shortly before Thanksgiving, when his cherry-picker tipped over while he was hanging holiday lights.

"I have a son that's 18 months old, and she has a son and a newborn daughter, and he was hanging Christmas lights, and I'm hanging Christmas lights for three months," Lester said. "It kind of hit home." Lester raised more than $1,500 in the first two weeks of the display.

Other decorators get caught up in a friendly competition to outshine their neighbors.

In the Sand Lake Pointe of Orlando, Jay Miller and his neighbor Andrew Santorelli across the street have for years engaged in a holiday spirit arms races of sorts. The weapons include a life-size singing, dancing Santa doll, a smiling snowman with a yard-long candy cane, and of course thousands and thousands of lights.

Santorelli said he started small, but once his neighbor got into the act, his competitive juices were flowing.

"Every year since, I just wanted more," Santorelli admitted to the Tampa Tribune.

Calling in the Professionals

The pressure to put on a high-quality show has led some homeowners to seek professional help.

In Bakersfield, Calif., more people are hiring professionals like Bill Lovett to wrestle with their Christmas lights.

"They just don't want to get that high on a ladder anymore," Lovett said.

Homeowner Miyoung Suggs spent $800 on holiday lights, and paid another $300 to put them up.

"I think it is pretty reasonable," Suggs said. "I'm going to enjoy them all through December, and people who watch my Christmas lights will enjoy them. And that's what holidays are about."

Many veterans of the Christmas light wars acknowledge they're seen as a little nutty. Comparisons to Clark Griswold, the decoration-obsessed protagonist of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, are not uncommon.

"Is your house on fire, Clark?" Griswold's aunt asks in the movie.

"No, Aunt Bethany, those are the Christmas lights," he explains.

KMIZ in Columbia, Miss., KOMO in Seattle, WCVB-TVin Boston, and's Oliver Libaw contributed to this report.