An Australian family has seized back the world record for Christmas lights on a residential property, by stringing over half a million twinkling bulbs around their Canberra home. The Richards family were previous title holders, but they lost it in 2012 to New Yorkers, the Gays in Lagrangeville. It wasn’t so much that they were incandescent; they just wanted their title back. And on Sunday, they got it.
Clearly they had to get out of the 300,000s and into the next league. The Richards 2011 record was set with 331,038 lights but the Gays out-dazzled them with 346,283. So this year Dad Dave Richards has gone all out and hung 502,156 lights on over thirty-one miles of wiring. He intended to smash it this time and to set a Christmas lights standard that will be hard to shatter. Guinness have confirmed he has upped the ante. The Christmas lights world record is officially raised.
If you are wondering how the Guinness Book of Records verifies claims like this, they don’t go along and count every tiny LED bulb. They check the sales receipts and take a mean average from a count at regular spaces. Otherwise they would have been there until next Christmas.
And if you are also wondering why on earth a man like Dave Richards would spend every night after work and every weekend since October, struggling with ladders, hammers and nails and miles of tangled flex, there is a good reason. Dave and his wife Janean have 3 kids between the ages of 6 and 13, but a decade ago, they lost a child, who died of SIDS.
By asking for donations from the thousands who will teem in to see their spectacular display, they will raise substantial amounts to give to Kids ACT and SIDS charities. In 2011 they handed over a cheque for $78,000. That money paid for two full-time counsellors. This year they hope to give back $100,000.
“Anyone who has been through that sort of loss will probably tell you the worst thing that can happen to you is losing a young child,” Richards explained.
The local electricity supplier comes to the party by absorbing the renewable energy. Otherwise the Richards would be facing a hike in their bill by around $2,500. Even Janean Richards doesn’t know how much her husband has spent on the lights though, and he says she doesn’t want to know. He reassures that it is less than the amount they will make back for charity.
The Richards live in the former Japanese Embassy which lends itself well to the display. By building a canopy over the circular driveway Richards has created a magical tented tunnel effect, and synchronised it to music. A combination of icicles, candy canes, reindeer and nets add to the shimmering candescence. A huge tree in the forecourt is another focal point for the streams of light. He now looks forward to welcoming the visitors. One couple have already held a fairytale wedding there.
“I have always loved Christmas,” said the lawyer, and he felt that having the community coming and going gave them all a chance to get to know one another better. Children Madelyn, 6, Caitlin, 10 and Aidan 13, agree. They all enjoy the event and it’s a fair bet their friends do too.
If his record does indeed get smashed he is not sure if he will move to defend the title again. He would need to get a generator.
Anyone in the Canberra area can visit the Christmas lights after dark from November 30 to Boxing Day by donation of a gold coin. For the rest of us who can’t get Down Under for the captivating candescence, here is a twinkling taster.
By Kate Henderson