One local family is giving the “Griswolds” a run for their money when it comes to holiday decorations.
With over 650 holiday-themed mini-villages sprinkled throughout their home, the Carnes family has poured its heart and soul into sharing a love of the holidays with thousands of people every year.
“When we lived in Los Angeles, we used to decorate our town home and won a nationwide decorating contest,” Christopher Carnes explained. “That is how it all began.”
Carnes added that they started by having holiday parties divided into three nights to accommodate both his and his wife’s co-workers and neighbors.
“One year we looked around and realized there were several people in our home that we didn’t know,” Christopher said with a chuckle. “They had heard about our displays in the news and it just kept growing from there.”
The Carnes moved to Menifee almost 20 years ago and brought their lively holiday spirit and their enormous collection with them.
They open their doors up every year starting the first Saturday in Dec. and hold nightly open houses through Jan. 1.
The unpacking and unwrapping begins in Sept. and the decorating duo keep a steady pace until they unveil their finished masterpiece on opening night.
“We open our home every night at 6 p.m. and we don’t close shop until the last person leaves which is usually around 10:30 p.m.,” Mary Carnes said.
Neighbors and friends chip in to help keep visitors moving along and to help dish out chili, soup and eggnog.
“A neighbor groused around when we invited him to come by and help serve eggnog,” Christopher said. “He ended up staying the whole night and by the end had tears in his eyes after seeing the joy people feel while being surrounded by the spirit of the holiday.”
A police officer stopped by and told them traffic was backing up on the roads because their home display, they added.
“The officer ended up staying and helping out with crowd control,” Christopher added.
In lieu of buying each other Christmas presents, the family makes assembling the intricate displays and welcoming visitors into their home a priority.
“We make it work,” Mary said. “The love and the friendship we feel is overwhelming.”
Christopher added the outpouring of love is amazing.
“This is the true spirit of Christmas,” he added.
Admission to their winter wonderland is free, however, they do ask people bring canned goods. The goods are collected throughout the month and are donated to the Menifee Community Cupboard.
“Last year we collected 1,900 pounds of canned goods for people in need. This year we hope to surpass that,” Mary explained.
The couple said “take-down mode” kicks in on Jan. 2 and that it takes them about a month to disassemble and pack away all of the miniature houses and accessories.
“We take our time putting everything away,” Mary said.
To learn more, visit their Facebook page.
The Carnes’ home is located at 30035 Calle Pompeii in Menifee.
Stephanie D. Schulte is a writer/photographer with SWRNN. She can be reached at email@example.com.