Johnny Rose doesn’t just look like Santa Claus himself. He lives like him, too! Every Christmas, the New Jersey native and creator of Johnny’s Hazlet Holiday Light Extravaganza gets into the holiday spirit by decorating his home in 75,000 lights—a tradition he’s kept alive for over 50 years!
Johnny’s relationship with Christmas light decorations started when he was a young boy. “My mother started [doing Christmas lights] when I was a kid, at about 13,” Rose told In The Know. “She started teaching me about lights, then how to decorate the tree, and decorate some of the outside. She knew that she could always count on me to help her. It made us feel better that we always knew we were there for each other.”
Now, over 50 years later, Rose, with some help from his brother, starts planning his Christmas light display in January. “I start with the front of the house, and in the driveway I put a 30 to 35-foot tunnel in there. And I put all the lights in there and they run to a little computer playing music, so they blink to that,” explains Rose.
But the driveway is just the beginning of Rose’s Holiday Light Extravaganza. He also does a Winter Wonderland, complete with blow-up decorations and even a shed for Santa to sit in and pose for pictures with visiting children.
The most special area of Rose’s Holiday Light Extravaganza is the Holy Area, which is also the most personal to him. The Holy Area features two angels, one for Rose’s daughter who passed away from cancer, and the other for his granddaughter who passed away a few years ago. “This is our way of communicating to our daughter and granddaughter,” shares Rose.
Rose’s late granddaughter had a young daughter, who now looks at the angel as a symbol of her mother. “So this is our way to try to teach kids [that] different things happen in life. But it’s hard. Very hard. But that’s why it’s so special to us, that area,” Rose tells In The Know.
Rose spends about $3,000 out of his own pocket on the light display, but it’s more than worth it for the Christmas enthusiast. “The township here loves the Hazlet Light Display,” says Rose. “The neighbors are very good with it, they all come over here every night. Their kids walk around [and] enjoy themselves every night. It’s all about kids, it ain’t about us. It’s about the kids, and we have to be there for the kids.”
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