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Light up the night
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When approaching Matthew Harwell's home on Stacia Drive in the middle of December, it becomes clearly apparent the man and his family have an appreciation for Christmas and all the multicolored lights that come along with holiday.

"Christmas is my most favorite time of year," Harwell said. "Christmas is just a very, very special time of the year for me and my family."

And to celebrate that beloved time of year, Harwell and his family have made it their tradition to light up the night, and their power bill, by adorning their home with as many Christmas decorations as they can afford.

"I've been doing it since I was about 9-years-old," Harwell said of decorating for Christmas. "I used to do it for my Mama when I was home."

While he may have decked out his house for most of his life, Harwell decided to kick it up a notch when his children were young. As his family has grown, so to has his fascination with the Christmas décor.

"I just kept doing it and kept doing it and this year I just put out more lights than what I had in the past because of these grandbabies of mine," Harwell said.

"It's everybody's favorite holiday around here," said daughter Mickie Ann Harwell.

Harwell is very aware of how his children feel about the family tradition.

"If I don't put them up then I catch you know what out of all these kids," he said with a chuckle.

Not that he does not have help with the process, which has developed into a family affair that takes nearly a month.

"We usually start (decorating) the day after Halloween," said Matthew's wife Kandie Harwell "And it's our tradition to light everything up on Thanksgiving night. And that's a tradition we are trying to pass down to the kids."

He has no idea how many lights now garnish his house and yard, but Harwell estimates he has at least $2,000 invested in the decorations, $500 of which was recently added.

"We spend $200 on nitpicky stuff in just one day," Kandie Harwell said.

To accommodate the extraordinary amount of multicolored bulbs shinning in the yard, Harwell has had to install special plug-ins and sockets throughout the yard.

"I have to tap into nearly every outlet we've got on this house," Harwell said. "I can't even turn the lights on in our room right now because I have to rerun a chord under the house for the lights. If she cuts the light on, it will kick the breaker."

Kandie has actually already made that mistake, killing power to both their room and the decorations.

"I was like, 'Honey, my lights are out in the yard!' I wasn't even worried about our bedroom," she said of the incident.

With so much juice running throughout the house and yard, the Harwells are dreading their next power bill.

"I'm afraid to see what the light bill is going to be," Kandie Harwell said. "But whatever it is, it is worth it. You only get to do it one month out of the year. We have had quite a few lookers and it just absolutely tickles us to death when you see them come down the hill and they get real slow and they just stop."

While many people make a trip to see the family's joy for the season at the end of Stacia Drive, Harwell remembers the attention his mother's decoration would garner while living near a major roadway.

"I was raised on (Ga.) Highway 11 and up there the people coming down the highway would nearly stop when I decorated Mama's house, but I've been tied up in cul-de-sacs and off main roads since then," Harwell said.

Plenty of people are still able to enjoy the Harwells' array of bright decorations including neighborhood children.

"He usually lights the yard up every morning before he leaves and the elementary kids come down and have an absolute duck fit," Kandie Harwell said.

In the years ahead, the dead end of Stacia Drive could become a main attraction for families seeking a jolt of holiday spirit. Several of the Harwells' neighbors have begun hanging their own signs of the season including the "Grinch" across the street.

"It's a running joke," Harwell said. "Jim says, 'You're Mr. Christmas and I'm Mr. Grinch.'"

In recent years, the neighbor has driven the point home by installing a gigantic, inflatable Grinch in the front yard directed at the Harwells' home. This year he has also added some Christmas lights of his own around a tree to create a truly Whoville-eque Christmas tree.

Next year Harwell said he and his family plan on extending their Christmas cheer to their elderly next-door neighbor.

"I think she will really enjoy that," Harwell said.