I’m just crackers about Christmas, says dad with 120,000 festive lights

Visitors to Matthew Haines’s glowing home in Fish Hoek can donate to charitable causes, but there's no charge for dropping by to be dazzled

12 December 2021 - 00:00
By Bobby Jordan
Matthew Haines in Lady Grey Street, Fish Hoek, where he has covered his house with 120,000 Christmas lights.
Image: Esa Alexander Matthew Haines in Lady Grey Street, Fish Hoek, where he has covered his house with 120,000 Christmas lights.

Matthew Haines started with a single strand of Christmas lights wrapped around a bush in his mother’s rose garden.

He now has about 120,000 lights covering his entire property in Cape Town — possibly the most decorated house in Africa.

“Christmas lights just make me happy,” Haines said of this Yuletide obsession when the Sunday Times visited his glowing home near False Bay Hospital in Fish Hoek.

“It's just about the feeling of Christmas. I remember it always being the happiest time,” he said.

The 39-year-old father of four has been cultivating the Christmas lights in his front garden for five years since he came back to SA from California, where he spent much of his youth.

The lights at the Haines home extend across the entire roof, front garden, gates, garage and front verge.
Image: Esa Alexander The lights at the Haines home extend across the entire roof, front garden, gates, garage and front verge.

He expands his twinkling dominion by about 15,000 new lights a year, including donated strands from fellow enthusiasts who pay an annual visit.

His lights now extend across his home’s entire roof, front garden, gates, garage and front verge, and feature nodding reindeer, a luminous Father Christmas and Christmas-themed images projected onto a wall.

Haines has also covered his trees with lights, and has a memorial section where a single flickering orange bulb commemorates his mother, who died of cancer five years ago.

His lights use R200 of electricity a night, but Haines says his indulgence pays dividends in terms of neighbourhood good cheer and donations for needy children.

Visitors can donate to charitable causes, though Haines doesn’t charge anybody wishing to drop by.

“Our main goal is to make kids smile in this otherwise awkward time we are going through,” he said.

Visitors come from far and wide to experience the light show.
Image: Esa Alexander Visitors come from far and wide to experience the light show.

The light show runs until December 25, as well as New Year’s Eve. The response has been overwhelmingly positive, but there have been a few naysayers on social media.

“It started as just a little thing, but everybody has been so awesome about it. The very cool thing is 90% are people who come back every year. We’ve seen little kids grow up, and we’ve even had people get engaged under our lights. It has been fantastic,” Haines said.

He said he is pleased that neighbours have started to display their own lights, notably the family next door whose lights spell the word “Ditto” — with an arrow pointing back at Haines’ house.

Haines’s unusual habit has raised eyebrows with customs officials when he buys a new batch of lights from the US. All of them are 100% waterproof; there are no LEDS and no cheap imitations.

“I’m very picky about it — I like the ‘old-school’ lights,” he said. “Unfortunately you can’t find the stuff here.

“Every time I go back and forth [to America], the customs people think I’m insane — to them I am the Christmas lights guy,” said Haines, who owns an import business that specialises in vintage Ford Mustang cars.

Haines is not alone in his festive obsession. His wife Emily does her own display — at Halloween.