Let your heart be light with this home's legendary Christmas display

·2 min read

An Ilderton man is making holiday spirits bright, quite literally.

Jeff Vanleeuwen’s house at 220 Songbird Lane in Ilderton is decked out in hundreds of holiday decorations and lights for an extravagant display that would even make the Griswold family jealous.

“I’ve always loved Christmas so much,” he said. “I think it started with my mom. She made Christmas really special.”

Vanleeuwen has been building his holiday display for eight years.

It first started in London, but he moved to Ilderton three years ago and picked the lot and built the house to suit his expanding display.

This year, beyond adding 15 skids of decorations – there usually are about four smaller figures a skid, or a single, large one – Vanleeuwen said he’s seen substantially more people coming to view his home.

“It has increased unbelievably, and I think it’s because of COVID,” he said. “People don’t have a lot to do."

While Vanleeuwen never has counted the exact number of bulbs in his display, the lights take four weeks to set up, starting at Halloween. As for his decorating style, “classic and cool, but not too gaudy” is the way to go.

He gets help from his wife, daughter and son, and from neighbours who offer to lend a hand.

And, no, the electric bill isn’t through the roof thanks to LED bulbs, he said.

Vanleeuwen also hasn’t heard any complaints from neighbours about the lights, or about the onlookers and lines of cars that flood the street each night.

Families searching for joy and Christmas spirit amid the COVID-19 pandemic may be sparking a greater interest in holiday lights this year.

Local decorating company London Holiday Lights, which installs lights on residential houses, has seen a 75 per cent increase in business this year.

“I think everybody is trying to bring in that nice spirit,” said owner Daniel Hejna. “Everybody wanted to start out earlier, and it just kept going.”

Vanleeuwen’s display in Ilderton runs nightly until Dec. 31.

He collects donations for ChildCAN and the Ailsa Craig Foodbank and already has raised more than $15,000. Vanleeuwen’s employer, CARSTAR London West and East, sponsored the display this year.

But seeing the lights glisten in the wide-eye faces staring up at them is what makes it “all worthwhile” for the Christmas enthusiast.

“That’s the reason why I do it. I say to people that’s how I get paid, based on how you respond to it,” Vanleeuwen said.

And it’s not just little kids getting a kick out of the display.

“Even the elderly, those stick in the mind the most,” Vanleeuwen said. “When they come and they say, ‘you have taken me back to my childhood,’ that’s it for me, one of the best things I could hear.”

MaxMartin@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/MaxatLFPress

Max Martin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, London Free Press