Local family carries on Christmas tradition through annual light show

By Lynn R. Parks

When Jacob Waldridge was just a few days old, he saw his first Christmas lights.

"My grandfather drove us home from the hospital after I was born," says Jacob, a sophomore at Seaford High School who will turn 16 on Dec. 30. "When we got home, my dad took me around the yard just for a minute or two to look at the lights."

Immediately, the family story goes, Jacob liked them.

When the decorations came down that year, Jacob was outside with his parents, Jason and Leslie Waldridge, at their house south of Blades. And the next year, a few weeks before he turned 1, he was out there again, paying attention to everything that was going on.

Since then, he has been a big part of planning and putting up the family's Christmas display. Now, his younger brother, Nicholas, 6, is following in Jacob's footsteps.

As the boys have grown, so has the Waldridge family Christmas display. "We try to add something new every year," says Jason Waldridge, owner of J&L Builders.

"They work so hard to make everything look nice," adds Leslie, who works in the payroll department at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, Seaford. "They really do a great job."

This year's display includes 36 lighted deer, five inflated decorations and several signs, including one that reads "Merry Christmas" and another that says, in all blue, "Believe."

The Waldridge house is outlined in lights, spotlights shine on trees, there's a nativity scene and lights cascade down from the front-yard flag pole to form the shape a large Christmas tree.

Lining the driveway are 36 four-foot Christmas trees, fashioned from rebar by Jacob's grandfather, Elwood Waldridge. The same grandfather who drove Jacob and his family home from the hospital after Jacob was born, Elwood had an auto body shop in Blades. He died in 2013.

And there are three – yes, three – snow machines. "About two years ago, we watched a TV show called 'Extreme Christmas Lights,'" Jacob says.

"We saw the snow machines and Dad went out and bought three of them for different sections of the yard."

The family, with the help of Jason's nephew, Braham Waldridge, usually starts decorating on Thanksgiving weekend. This year, they started a little early so they could enjoy a family trip over the Thanksgiving holiday.

It takes about three days to get everything in place. "It's a lot of work, no doubt about it," says Jason. "The worst part is getting everything out from where we've kept it."

The lights are on every night, from dusk to about 9. As Christmas grows nearer, the lights are on longer, until 10 or 10:30, Jason says.

They all start coming down around Jan. 3 – but not before they've made a big difference in the Waldridge electric bill. "In December, our bill is at least double," Jason says.

But this time of year, the family isn't thinking about the money, or even about the effort and time their holiday display takes. They are expressing their joy in the Christmas season and are presenting a gift to the entire community.

"All the time, every night, we have cars stopping out front to look," Jason says. "Maybe five or six cars a night. It's pretty exciting."

"Ever since I was little, I kept asking what we were going to do new this year, to make people want to come look at our lights," adds Jacob. "This is how we show that we love the holidays. I feel as though if we do this, we can help people get inspired for Christmas."

In the true spirit of the holidays, Jacob says that this display is more about giving than receiving.

"This is not just for us, but for others," he says. "We want to make sure that everyone has a little joy in Christmas."

For your information: The Waldridge home is on the west side of alternate U.S. 13, south of Blades near the intersection with Easter Lane. Its Christmas display is on every evening, until around 9.

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