HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) – Anyone who has ever wondered what kind of people leave their Christmas lights up all year, meet the Morgans, the kind of neighbors you’ll either love or hate.
About seven years ago, Mary and Richard Morgan decided they weren’t going to take down their Christmas lights. Ever.
Traditionalists – those appalled at the thought of putting up Christmas lights any sooner than Thanksgiving and leaving them up beyond New Year’s – would probably consider what the Morgans have done as something akin to sacrilege.
Drive down the 500 block of Summit Avenue after dark – any month of the year – and you’ll see a glowing Santa driving his sleigh of reindeer from the Morgan family’s roof. The upper-most level of the home is topped by a fully lit Christmas tree (which Robert Morgan said survived the Snowpacolypse of 2009) that illuminates the night sky.
The only thing the Morgans intend to remove are chewed up cords that fall victim to hungry squirrels and blown-out bulbs that are swiftly replaced with new ones.
The lights began as an act of defiance.
“Blame The Herald-Mail for us leaving them up all this time,” joked Richard Morgan, a 65-year-old computer programmer. “The first year we had them up, someone called Mail Call between Christmas and New Year’s, not even waiting until New Year’s, saying ‘Christmas is over, it’s time to take your lights down.’ We left them up just to spite whoever called.”
More comments streamed in thereafter, demanding for those “people on Summit Avenue” to take down the lights.
Mary Morgan found this particularly upsetting. She has had several strokes and also has to use an oxygen tank for her emphysema, a reason she said they were a little slow that year in getting the lights down.
She has held on to the Mail Call clippings.
“I’m a fanatic on Christmas. I love Christmas,” said Mary Morgan, who is 63, and has several health conditions. “The way I look at it, with me and my emphysema and all, I never know when I’m going to take my last breath. I’m going to enjoy what I want to enjoy.”
That’s the reason you’ll find remnants of holiday decorations all over the their home. “Just like my redbirds there that sing Christmas carols,” said Mary Morgan pointing to a trio of cardinals near the TV in her sitting room. “I keep that out all year.”
They’d have more Christmas decorations up in the house, but the pets would likely destroy them. They have three dogs and three cats.
So just how does the family that keeps its Christmas decorations up all year celebrate Christmas? By getting the biggest turkey they can find and hosting a big meal for family, friends and godchildren who call the Morgans “Grandpa” and “Grandma.”
“Before I started having ill health, my house was so crowded at mealtime people ate on the couch, they ate in the kitchen, they ate in the dining room,” Mary Morgan said. “Wherever they could sit with their plate that’s where they sat.”
Richard Morgan said the home still gets like that at times, though family members come and go in spurts. Both Richard and Mary were both married twice before. Combined, they have eight children, though they don’t have any children together.
They’re expecting to preserve the Christmas dinner tradition and continue the tradition of keeping the Christmas lights up year round.
The lights are timed to come on at around dusk and go off at around 10:30 p.m.
The Morgans said they’ve not had any major encounters with neighbors, though they have received complaints that the lights shine into other people’s windows at night, making it hard for their kids to sleep.
“They can close their drapes,” Mary Morgan said.
Other neighbors, the Morgans said, have sent cards that suggested that the lights put them in a good mood when they were feeling down.
They said they’ve never had any Mail Callers tell them to their faces that they don’t like their lights, though, there was one time that a woman stopped by their house before the lights were scheduled to go on.
“I thought, uh-oh, maybe this is the woman who called Mail Call,” Mary Morgan said. “I hope it is so I could give her a piece of my mind.”
As Morgan recalled, the woman had recognized the house from Mail Call and said, “I know you probably read in Mail Call about those nosy people telling you to take your lights down. I hope you didn’t take them down.”
Feedback like this make the Morgans happy.
“Christmas lights have a special meaning,” Mary Morgan said.
“They symbolize brightness, love. That’s what Christmas is about.
If people could put that into their hearts the whole year round instead of just one day a year a lot of things would be different in the world.”
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)