“A week and a crew.” That’s what Leann Salmons needs to put up her family’s holiday lighting display. The roofing contractor she hires to turn her house into a display that (presumably) could be seen from the moon “knows that we are crazy Christmas people,” Salmons laughs.
When you realize her home is in Shepherd Park Plaza, the neighborhood just north of Garden Oaks where over-the-top holiday lighting displays have been a tradition since the 1960s, it seems a little less insane. “It’s not like you just throw out some lights,” Salmons explains. “That would be fantastic and easy, but it’s not what we do.” The resulting wonderland—with entire streets decked out in matching colors—draws long lines of holiday light enthusiasts decade after decade.
The tradition did lose a bit of steam in the early aughts, a period when the area’s aging residents weren’t quite as active as in previous years. Among them were Salmons’s own parents. “If they put up a few strands of lights, it’s a good day,” she says. But today the lights are burning brighter than ever.
“We have so many young professionals moving into our neighborhood,” Salmons explains. Less than a decade ago, as part of that same infusion of homebuyers, she herself moved back to the area, where many of the houses come with lights from the previous homeowner. “You move into the neighborhood,” says Salmons, “and you get Christmas in a box.”
Each year, Salmons’s family pulls out 30 to 40 boxes full of lights, adding a waving Santa in a rocking chair one year or another in a helicopter the next year, all ready to be displayed and set to music that can be heard via radio broadcast—visitors simply tune in to the station on the front-yard sign. “Christmas is my favorite,” she says. “My house looks like a winter wonderland.”
There’s one downside, however. “There are days on the weekend when I have to wait in line to get to my driveway,” she says. But she and the other residents don’t mind much, and decorations go up earlier and earlier every year. “Everybody loves Christmas lights. The more that people decorate, the better.”
Excerpted from our December 2015 cover story, 65 Winter Must-Do's in Houston.