Healthy competition can spark the brightest of ideas.
When Gary and Adele Whiston moved to Warren St about 20 years ago, they were inspired by their new neighbours’ Christmas lights collection.
Mr and Mrs Whiston had previously dabbled in lights but meeting Kay and Bruce Tourell, who became their “second parents”, really ignited their passion.
“They gave us some [lights] so then Gary was like, ‘we’ve got to do more’,” Mrs Whiston said.
Every year since, with the help of children Sebastian (18), Kristiana (15) and Analiese (10), they decorated their home in colourful fairy lights, sharing their Christmas joy with the rest of Oamaru.
Eight years ago, they moved to Awamoa Rd, opening their business, Ambience Hair Design, in front of their house – and their love for lights grew further.
More than 100 lights – mainly solar-powered – cover their home, alongside flashing lights and projections on the walls of reindeer, Christmas trees, stockings and Santa. The salon is decorated inside too, with a reindeer, a Christmas tree, angels, and, of course, more lights.
Mr Whiston said it took about three days to put all the lights up, and their collection had grown even more this year.
“Our 18-year-old son at night time goes, ‘Oh Dad look, there’s a gap there’,” Mr Whiston said.
“That’s the thing – you can kind of run out of space to put them. I’m not getting up on the roof.”
He once tried to put a reindeer on the roof, given to the family by Mr and Mrs Tourell, at their Warren St home, but it was not very successful.
For the Whistons, Christmas represented joy and family.
“Nowadays, not just with Covid, but Christmas is a bit different. You don’t want to lose the Christmas feel, I suppose.”
While they never wanted to enter any Christmas light competitions, it did not stop them from checking out the other decorated houses.
On Christmas Eve, the family drove around Oamaru and never missed the “incredible” display in Eden St, by Klarie Zoutenbier, a client of Mr Whiston’s who was in her 80s.
Mr Whiston said he really admired her efforts and he expected he would probably still be hanging them on his home when he was in his 80s.
There was only one thing on his Christmas wish list this year . “I wish someone would help pull them all down,” he joked.