Sommers Take Christmas Decorating to the Extreme

By Lauren Pike

 

Christmas decorations surround the Sommer house.
Christmas decorations surround the Sommer house.

It’s Thanksgiving night and out of the frosty darkness the spirit of Christmas already lingers in the air. Several houses are decorated neatly in twinkly lights and traditional wreaths. Then all of the sudden, another house illuminates the winter evening.

The house has a degree of brightness that almost rivals that of the Griswolds. Colorful inflatables dot the yard and a carrusel full of Christmas animals spins around slowly. Santa even waves from the upper window to the onlookers and children below. It’s not the North Pole, but the closest thing in Saint Charles: the Sommer house.

Each Christmas, sophomore Brittany Sommer and her family transform their front yard into a Christmas extravaganza featuring a plethora of inflatables and lights. While traditional decorations such as bush lights and wreaths are included in the Sommer’s yard, they incorporate a few nontraditional elements. The yard features a light up giraffe, elephant, and seal, along with a twelve foot inflatable hot air balloon with Santa riding in it.

“When I was little, we didn’t have a lot of lights,” Brittany said. “Every year [the decorations] kept growing because we’re crazy Christmas people. If we didn’t decorate it would be unlike us.”

After decorating for a total of 18 years, the Sommers have developed a process to the decorating. Decorating usually begins between the weeks before and after Thanksgiving, depending on the weather. The decorating process begins with Brittany’s older sister and FHN graduate, Brooke Sommer planning out where the major inflatables belong.

“Brooke has strong feelings about where everything goes,” Brittany’s mother, Chris Sommer said. “Sometimes she would get home and say ‘I don’t like it,’ and we would have to move everything.”

After the layout of the decorations is set  up, it’s a parade of decorations from their storage place: the attic, better known as the “cemetery of old decorations.” From there, the whole family works to bring the decorations into the garage for a warmer assembly away from the cold. After that, it’s a matter of stringing lights onto the bushes and trees and hooking up the extension cords.

“The most challenging part is the power outlets,” Chris said. “If you have too much power, you’ll blow the circuit. When the lights are on, we can’t plug in hair dryers or vacuums. If a little bit of water gets on the cords, it will short out.”

Next up, each inflatable is tied and with the use of 10-foot bike chains, chained to the ground. After an incident where someone stole decorations, the Sommers decided to use chains to stop the thieves. From then on, when the chains came out, Chris started calling her family “the Chain Gang.” According to her the whole decorating process takes around three hours.

“The best part is seeing the overall product and how it’s all together and lit up and spending time with my family,” Brittany said. “I feel so accomplished when it’s all done.”

Although decorating is typically a tradition shared between their immediate family, Chris has been known to recruit anyone willing to help decorate.

“We’ve recruited other family members and even past boyfriends,” Chris said. “We’ll take anyone with time on their hands.”

Now that Brittany and Brooke are older, decorating the house has become more about bringing the Christmas spirit to younger children in the neighborhood. The tradition of decorating has become a typical sight for these younger children during the Christmas season.

“The kids are excited,” Brittany said. “We have a Santa in the window waving at them and they wave back.”

The neighborhood kids are not the only ones who enjoy the light and decoration display. According to Chris, people have personally thanked her for the festive decorating. She has even had someone thank her with a box of chocolates and a note.

“We just love everything Christmas and like to show it off,” Chris said.