Once upon a time, you could hang up a string of lights and call your house decorated for the merriest season. But these days, LEDs, computerized Christmas lights, and projection lights have added new dimensions to decorating—and people are creating bigger and better light shows with each passing holiday season.
1. SARAJEVO 12/24
Robert Pechous of Wheaton, Illinois, synchronized more than 35,000 Christmas lights by computer to create this lovely display in 2013. (The video features just one song—Trans Siberian Orchestra's "Christmas Eve/Sarajevo 12/24"—but the show had three songs total.) Pechous expands the light show every year, raising money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association in honor of his young cousin, who has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
2. DUELING JINGLE BELLS
The Brown family of Stafford, Virginia, staged a Christmas light show from 2008 to 2013 to benefit the Fredericksburg Area Food Bank. In 2012, they got a little silly and slipped a novelty song in among the Christmas Carols. You can see their other selections on YouTube.
3. TECHNO MIX
It's a Christmas rave! This home went techno for Christmas in 2011. We don't know where the home is located, or the identity of the people who so joyfully decked it out, but they've been at it for a while: You can see their other displays here.
4. MUSIC BOX DANCER
Victor Johnson of Paxton, Illinois, used 140,000 lights on his home to create this display in 2013. The music was broadcast on an FM channel so that those driving by could hear it without disturbing the neighbors. You can see more of his Christmas displays over the years at Lighting Up Paxton.
5. CHRISTMAS CAN-CAN
Tom BetGeorge of Tracy, California, is a legend among Christmas light fans. Every year, his meticulous light display helps to raise funds for local charities, and in 2013, the display included the hilarious "Christmas Can-Can" by Straight No Chaser. The 2016 show will still feature his popular Star Wars sequence, in addition to Harry Potter music and, according to BetGeorge's Facebook page, a "to-scale computer-lighted model of Hogwart's [sic] castle." The show kicks off December 16.
6. LET IT GO
A family in Texas, which goes by ListenToOurLights, syncs many songs to their lights every year, and in 2014, the blue lights lent themselves well to the songs of the Disney movie Frozen. You can see the lights dance to other songs in this playlist. The cactus is a family tradition that acts as their signature.
7. AMAZING GRACE
Richard Holdman of Pleasant Grove, Utah, began programming his Christmas lights in 2006. They grew every year, and in 2009, the town was treated to the sequence you see here. A donation box raised $40,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation that year. Holdman no longer puts on a show at his home, but he started a company, Holdman Lighting, and now decorates homes all over the country.
8. PURPLE RAIN
Mike Staudt of Chaska, Minnesota, puts on an annual lights show called Lights on Pascolo. That's not far from Prince's home, Paisley Park, so this year's show includes a tribute to the artist, complete with purple lights. You can see the full 2016 show here. Donations from those who enjoy the show this year will go to Ronald McDonald house charities.
9. STAR WARS/UPTOWN FUNK
In Auckland, New Zealand, where Christmas falls in the middle of summer, Logan Carpenter mixed his own music and programmed lights to match. Take a tour of Carpenter's yard to see the variety of Christmas decorations and lights.
10. EL PASO CHRISTMAS LIGHTS
Fred and Maria Loya of El Paso, Texas, won the The Great Christmas Light Fight in 2014. Their home display has only grown from there. This is their light show for 2016, featuring 450,000 lights.
11. JOLLY'S DEPARTMENT STORE
The new trend in Christmas lights is projection. You can project lights on your house for very little cost, but the most amazing displays use computerized projection mapping. This display on the front of Jolly's Department Store in Bath, UK, in 2014 shows the possibilities of this technology.
12. WESTERN MALL
In 2006, Joe Noe of Crooks, South Dakota, staged a computerized light show at his home, and the show grew so much every year that it had to eventually be moved to the Western Mall in Sioux Falls. The video above shows the 2011 display. In those years, the light display raised over $225,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. There isn't a display this year, but organizers hope it will return in 2017.
13. DUBSTEP AT THE ZOO
Matt and Melissa Johnson of San Antonio, Texas, started doing computerized Christmas lights in 2013 at their home, and within a couple of years they were featured on The Great Christmas Light Fight. The display went over so well that Matt started his own lighting business, which was brought aboard to put on a light show at the San Antonio Zoo. See more of the Johnson Family Light Show at their website.
14. WALT DISNEY WORLD
Two years ago, Walt Disney World in Orlando unveiled a show called "A Frozen Holiday Wish," centered around the movie Frozen. The show leads up to the lighting of Cinderella's Castle with projected Christmas lights every evening during the season. The actual lighting begins six minutes into the video.