When Joe Guy was growing up in Limavady, Christmas was a simple affair.
The family would have the traditional tree in the home, a few decorations and cards.
Outside, however, usually the only decoration would be courtesy of Mother Nature and the white stuff on the ground.
Whether it’s the secret longing to have what he wished for as a child, or just because he can, Joe doesn’t hold back when it comes to the festive season these days.
Over the last five years, the cheery 55-year-old is known for creating something of an illuminated wonderland for the people of Feeny, Chevy Chase-style, although not quite so grand!
Halloween is barely over when, at the beginning of November each year, Joe sets about decorating the outside of his home in the heart of the village.
It’s simply festooned with smiling mini Santas, perched on the front summer seat and on window ledges, alongside all sorts of multi-coloured twinkling lights (chandelier, icicles...you name it!). Joe laughs when he says: “People think I’m mad! I never did it with my own wains. It’s only a few years ago I started with my nieces’ children and they loved it.”
Always on the look out for a bargain Santa or left over Christmas lights, Joe admits he still spent a “fair bit” on decorations in the January sales, but says every penny has been worth it.
“Im very proud of how it all looks. It gives you a good sense of satisfaction,” he says.
As he indulged in decorating with his son on Monday, overseeing the operation, giving orders on which Santa should go where, Joe said passers-by were intrigued.
“They were all slowing down and shouting, ‘Are you mad? It’s still Hallowe’en!’, but the young ones love it. A few weeks back, in the local shop, there was a crowd of young ones asking ‘Joe, when are you putting the lights up? And, just yesterday, there were three ladies walking up the street and they stopped and said it was lovely.”
Joe says he travels around the North West, from Portrush to Derry to marvel at outdoor Christmas decorations to get ideas for each year.
Not so anxious to see the lights switched on so early, says Joe, is his wife, Anne, who isn’t so keen on the price of running the them nightly.
“But sure it’s better to do it in November when the weather is milder. It makes it so much more pleasant,” he says.
“I suppose it’s hard to explain why I do it, but each year I can’t wait to get the lights up. If nothing else, it puts a smile on your face because there’s enough doom and gloom about!”