BROOKLYN PARK, Md. (AP) — While Christmas only comes once a year, Ray Davidson spends the other 364 days on the calendar planning.
“I’ve always been fascinated by Christmas,” Davidson said. “I go into depression in January when it all goes away.”
The Brooklyn Park resident is just one of a small army of men and women who have just spent the past several weeks hauling boxes out of the basement and putting the decorations up.
Whether it’s vast collections like Davidson’s, three decades of light display extravaganzas like it is for Tony Iorio, or a first time effort like Al Saunders’s, this is the season for decorating.
As a kid growing up in Baltimore in the 1960s, Davidson was particularly fond of the lights and ornaments that decorated his family’s Christmas tree.
At age 52, his passion for Christmas now borders on obsession. Davidson displays seven Christmas trees throughout his two-story home, which he shares with a roommate and his dog Gabby, a 5-year-old black mount cur. Each tree is decorated with vintage lights and ornaments dating back as far as the 1880s, when the first bulbs were shipped to the United States from Germany.
Davidson moves through his house with a childlike excitement showing his favorite pieces — small bronze bulbs that feel heavy in the palm of your hand lights that explode into red and green shard of glass like the inside of a kaleidoscope.
The lights strung around a number of Davidson’s trees and outside his home are C6 lights, popular from the 1950s to the 1970s.
A property manager for a personal estate, Davidson spends much of the year searching for online shopping deals on eBay, antique shops and estate sales for various vintage decorations.
“When you see them you have to buy them,” Davidson said, a former country music singer who has carried his collection through stints in Nashville and Texas.
Davidson estimates that over the past 25 years he has invested some $50,000 in decorations. His collection is so big that he’s running out of space in his home to keep it all.
For Davidson the decorations are a source for nostalgia, which he finds that he shares with guests at his annual Christmas party each year.
“It amazes me the number of people who come in and say ‘Oh my God, those were the same lights on my great grandmother’s tree,’ ” he said. “It jogs people’s memories when they see them.”
For many of these Christmas enthusiasts, Christmas isn’t a holiday it’s an undertaking that can last all year. While some do it out of tradition or nostalgia, others do it to be the biggest and brightest on the block.
Over the last 27 years, Tony Iorio’s Delmar Avenue home in Glen Burnie has become a holiday landmark. Like Davidson, Iorio, 50, has spent thousands of dollars on his outside display over the years.
“Kids just started going crazy,” Iorio said. “Every year we added more and more and more.”
The display has grown so big in fact, that Iorio had to build a 14- by 12-foot shed a few years ago when he ran out of room in his garage and basement to store everything.
Decorated with red, white and blue lights, Iorio’s outside display includes a dancing Santa Claus, a snowmaker and a 30-minute laser lights show.
Every night from 5 to 10 p.m., Iorio’s house that he shares wit his wife Darleen and their 20-year-old son, Tony Jr., is fully lit. On the weekends when Iorio, dresses up as Santa Claus and hands out candy canes to children, the house attracts hundreds of people to the neighborhood, he said.
His ultimate goal is for the lights to be so bright that the house will be able to be seen in outer space.
Iorio generally begins buying new decorations right after the previous Christmas, spending months perfecting a blueprint for the house and front yard.
To accompany the lights, Iorio, who works at a Giant grocery store warehouse in Jessup, even broadcasts a mix of well known Christmas songs from an FM transmitter on his computer.
Although the cost to Iorio’s electric bill has been offset by newer LED lights that help to conserve energy, he is still paying hundreds more than what it would normally be in the month of December.
“I never worry about the price,” he said. “I do it for the kids, I really do. I like seeing the smile on their faces when they see the lights — plus, I’m still a kid myself.”
With recent introductions in technology the army of Christmas enthusiasts seems to be ever growing, as newcomers have a wide array of tools to spread Christmas cheer.
Brooklyn Park resident Al Saunders is new on the scene this year. The 39-year-old insurance underwriter has decorated the home that he shares with his wife, Donna, in the 5200 block of Ritchie Highway with 5,000 lights, hoping to make a splash.
Starting at 7 p.m. each day, Saunders’ lights are synchronized with six well known Christmas songs that he transmits from his computer to 103.9 FM. He asks spectators to park across the street in the parking lot to Advance Auto Parts and Roses and listen on their radios to enjoy the show.
“I’m just a kid at heart,” Saunders said. “I’m trying to make people happy and give a little Christmas spirit.”
After starting two weeks ago, the show has attracted a dozen or so vehicles, he said.
He estimates he’s put about $1,000 into his equipment and is expecting a larger electrical bill for December.
However, like Iorio, Saunders doesn’t seem too concerned about the cost.
“I really been getting a kick out of people enjoying it,” Saunders said. “I like Christmas time and I want to make people feel good.”