Christmas is season for lawn decorations
For many people, the Christmas season is a time to shop till they drop. For others, it’s a time to share Christmas festivities with family and friends. Others celebrate the Christian religious origins of this holiday.
Mat Hassen sees Christmas differently.
“For me the most enjoyable part of Christmas is decorating,” says Hassen. “The food and the presents are neither here nor there. I just like decorating.”
The lawn of his home at 3204 Lobelia is covered with giant inflatable Santas, an igloo and other winter and Christmas characters.
Every bush and every foot of his house’s trim is covered with lights with changing colours. There’s a Santa on the porch whose head moves.
“I’ve got 22 inflatables how,” says Hassen. “Some go in front and some go back on lot 25.”
Lot 25 is a big backyard shared by residents of the neighbourhood with a stream, trees and landscaping. It too is covered with lights and inflatable characters – snowmen, animals and more Santas.
It doesn’t stop there though.
Hassen’s decorations cover the front yards of some neighbouring homes as well.
He emphasizes that he doesn’t do this all by himself, fingering neighbours John Katerenchuk and Vaughn Denis as Christmas co-conspirators. Other neighbours also pitched in to help decorate at an “elf party” on the common lot at the start of December.
Blocks away at the corner of 89th Street and Oleander Drive, lights in all colours blink on the house, hedge and front yard at Dan Burton’s home to the sound of Christmas melodies.
Burton, who used to do Christmas lighting for the Calgary Zoo before retiring to Osoyoos six years ago, points out that the lights are all synchronized to the music.
He keeps the music on low because a shift-working neighbour complained it kept him awake.
“No two lights come on together if you can help it,” he says.
Burton started at the zoo in 1984, but he switched over to doing their winter lighting show in 1997. In the 10 years he did this, the number of lights grew from 500,000 to about two million.
You won’t see giant inflatable Santas and igloos on Burton’s lawn. You will see strings of LED lights shaped into musical notes.
“I make all my own figures,” says Burton. “I don’t buy any figures. All the musical notes, everything, candy canes, butterflies, I make myself.”
Why does he do it?
“For the comments I get up to June, July, August and September,” he says. “I also go crazy at Halloween. At Halloween people say they can’t wait to see what will be up for Christmas.”
People stop frequently to look at his lights at 5816 Oleander Drive.
“We picked the right house to move to,” he says. “It’s a perfect corner.”
Back on Lobelia, Hassen says he and his neighbours don’t do the lighting to attract attention to their neighbourhood, but visitors are welcome to come around and take a look.
Some neighbours tell Hassen that he sets the standard for Christmas in the neighbourhood and this puts pressure on others.
“There are a couple of neighbours who say that their wives are getting out the whip when we get the decorations up and they haven’t done anything yet,” he jokes.
What does his own wife say?
“She keeps talking about Griswald’s Christmas house,” he says, referring to the excessively decorated house in the movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. “She suggests that next year we should do less, but I just keep doing what I do. Evelyn is supportive, but is sometimes embarrassed by my excesses.”
Hassen’s obsession doesn’t stop at Christmas. Boxing Day, he says, is when you get the best deals on decorations.
Each Boxing Day he adds to his collection, purchasing new inflatables as big as 12 feet. One gigantic one was listed at $169, but was on sale on Boxing Day for $42.
“I don’t mind acquiring them at that price,” says Hassen. “Then after Christmas, of course, we have to take them down and bring them inside and run them warm until all the moisture is dried out. Then we pack them away in boxes and wait for next year.”