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Holiday Decor Takes on Life of its Own

Another electrical panel was added to the Barbari household in Alexandria to accommodate the elaborate holiday decoration scheme that has snowballed over the last 15 years.

"If I would vacuum the house on the inside, it would blow the lights on the outside," said Nancy Barbari, one of the founders of a decorating tradition that attracts thousands of people.

Starting the day after Thanksgiving, for the last 16 years, the yard and house resembles a construction site, with family and friends putting up about 50,000 lights, Santa's, reindeer, figurines, a choir, and a train around the yard. As Christmas gets closer, George Barbari breaks out the Santa Claus suit and children seem to come from all over to see the menagerie.

Nancy Barbari was Mrs. Claus and even Barbari's children, before they got older, dressed like elves a few times. The train, which travels in a 25 feet circle and holds 13 children, brightens the faces. That's the part Barbari likes.

"When I see the people enjoying themselves, I do it for the kids," he said.

Vernon "Chick" Wilkerson, Barbari's neighbor, enjoys it as well.

"I just get a kick out of the children's faces on the train," Wilkerson said.

WHILE THE HOLIDAYS are a festive time, depression sets in for some. Nancy Barbari thinks their decorations are therapy for some. She's heard heartfelt stories from some admirers and hopes they're being useful in that direction.

"There are a lot of people that are very depressed this time of year. With the lights, we hope to make them a little happy," Barbari said.

Every year, the Barbari house adds more Yule tide decorations but this year, they had to put a stop to the train rides. The level of danger may be minimal but they don't want to push their luck. They don't want to tempt anyone seeking a chance for a costly lawsuit — even around the holidays.

"We've been taking chances all these years," George Barbari said.

AS SOON AS Thanksgiving has passed, the holiday decorating extravaganza begins.

Loudoun County resident Wynn Ludwig turned her passion for decorating into a business, "Wynning Designs." She does not have any limits when it comes to the holiday season.

"I go in and do a consult and I make suggestions. Anything anyone does at Christmas is fabulous, there's no such thing as 'over do' at Christmas," Wynn said.

People and businesses book a year in advance. Now she's working on a ski chalet.

"I'm doing a snowflake theme. I just take a whole bunch of stuff over there and go like a mad man," she said.

Some neighborhoods in the area decorate a whole street at once, sometimes along one theme. In Springfield, Wilbur Court is like that. One of the residents on that street died in the Pentagon on 9/11 so the street banded together that year and did a memorial for him.

In Sterling, Juniper Street is known for its decorations as well. Burke Centre has an annual contest for the best decorations.

In Reston, they see the holiday decorations as a temporary situation, according to Reston Association community relations director Karen Monaghan. They do have restrictions on other exterior improvements though.

"It's considered a temporary situation so we don't regulate it," Monaghan said.