RESIDENTS have well and truly plugged in to the Christmas house lights phenomenon, with some particularly dazzling displays.
Households in Wrexham and Flintshire are glittering with everything from tiny icicle-lights to full-scale arctic menageries.
Last week, we revealed how Riccardo Doloto, nine, of Jeffreys Road, Borras Park, Wrexham, is benefiting from a spectacular display.
Diagnosed with diplegic cerebral palsy as a baby, he cannot walk unaided, and his mother Franca is raising funds for specialist surgery in America by asking passers-by to donate.
They are not alone in turning lights to their advantage.
Josephine Slawson, 46, and her husband Will, who live in Abermorddu, have a small army of helpers who dress the outside of their house for Christmas.
The aim is to raise funds for Hope House Hospice.
Josephine said: “We raise money for different charities.
“It started off being for Nightingale House Hospice because my granddad was looked after there when he was dying of cancer. The nurses helped him so much.
“At the moment we’re fundraising for Hope House because my nephew was cared for by them about 13 years ago.
“He was hit by a car when he was seven and when they were checking him they found he had cancer. He’s 20 now – they saved his life.”
She already has MacMillan Cancer Support lined up as next year’s charity.
Currently, her garden is inhabited by an army of snowmen, Santas and the oldest inhabitant, Homer Simpson.
Homer started the collection of ‘lit inflatables’ 10 years ago.
Before that, the house was festooned in a simple array of lights. But now there are moving reindeer, helicopters and a wreath donated by Caergwrle Chemists.
Josephine said: “Up till now, the lights have been up for about 10 days and we’ve got just under £60.
“We like to earn more than £100 and leave the lights up for about six weeks.”
The whole array takes about eight days to set up, with various family members and friends scurrying up ladders and leaning out of windows to put the lights in place.
Josephine added: “It has cost hundreds of pounds all told. Every year we get more things. A lot of them are replaced because they get broken when we put them in and take them out of storage.
“This year the winds broke even more, so we've spent about £200. There’s a bit of a spike in our electricity bill but, because it’s winter, that goes up anyway.
“People say we’ll bring the National Grid down if we turn them on. There’s talk of real power cuts but actually I’ll be okay because I’ve got battery-powered lights,” she joked.
Some might view a housefront covered in dancing lights as a bit of an eyesore but Josephine has had no complaints.
“Everybody has been very nice, really good. A lot of people still stop to talk with you. They ask about the charity.
“There are some difficulties though. Because of all the leads, we can’t use the front door for six weeks of the year.”
Husband Will, 42, has had his own issues with the lights.
He said: “We’ve made sure to wire them in because we've heard of two families in Flintshire who had theirs nicked a year or so ago.
“One fella woke up to find out his decorations had all been cut away.
“I’m not up and down the ladders myself. I have a heart condition.
“Two years ago I was up a ladder doing lights for the next door neighbour and I fell off.”
“He was fine,” laughed Josephine. “But he hasn’t been up since.”
This year, raising £100 will cost the family £200, which does not sound like a good investment. But it isn’t just about the charity.
“It cheers everybody up,” said Josephine. “If I could, I’d have them up all year round. On the dark days I try to switch them on at school leaving time.
“It’s nice to see the kiddies faces when they stop.”
Sometimes children play more than a passing role in house-dressing.
Little Flynn, eight, is the mastermind behind a display of 15-20 lights at the Jones household in Broughton.
His mother Joanne said: “He just loves them. We do it for him really. He’s even picked some of the lights himself. Personally, I like the transparent subtle lights, and I think: ‘Oh my God, we live there!’ when I see the front of my house sometimes.
“It’s hideous in the day because of all the wires but quite pretty at night.
“We used to go on walks with Flynn when he was really little to find the best light displays – so it’s part of his childhood.
“We’ve told him it’s enough now, though!”
Despite their proximity to Hawarden Airport, Joanne said their display hasn’t coaxed any planes into landing on their lawn.
But they did escape a minor Christmas crisis recently.
She said: “I was outside saying goodbye to my mum when I smelled burning plastic. I realised there was black smoke coming from Santa’s hat.
“We had to switch all the lights off – and that one went in the skip.”
Sharon Clews, of Pentre Halkyn, has polar bears and penguins in her garden.
She said: “I’ve been decorating with lights for years and years, at least as long as I’ve had the kids. My eldest is nine now.
“I’ve had the lights up for about four weeks. As soon as Halloween and Bonfire night are done, that’s it, they’re up. Everyone thinks I’m mad.”
Halkyn is a small community but Sharon has had her fair share of goggle-eyed commuters.
She said: “You get people coming past and stopping to have a good look. And people will have a joke. They’ll say things like: ‘Oh, so that’s why my lights went dim last night. You must have switched yours on.’
“Some people like it, some don’t. You get the bah humbugs."
Luckily, she is used to being highly visible as she works as a lollipop lady for Ysgol Rhoshelyg, which her children, Lucy, nine, and Freddie, seven, attend.
She said: “It’s creating memories for them, really. They’ll grow up but they’ll never forget this.
“I just love Christmas. I always have done. I always put the tree up early. I buy something new every year in the sales.
“Gradually, over the years, I’ve replaced the old decorations with LED lights so they are low wattage.
“I must have spent about £600 over the last decade on different lights and bulbs. I’m not going to stop though. I'll be down there during the sales as soon as they start in 2014.”
l Email pictures of the outside of your home decorated for Christmas, with your name, address and contact telephone number to firstname.lastname@example.org.