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In Tierrasanta, not far from the freeway's reach, the majority of the neighborhoods are sleepy and darkened in the evenings and the Christmas lights glow softly in the darkness. There’s something very All-American about big houses and festive lights that has a transformative effect on the suburban territory. There are plenty of houses that decorate for Christmas with gusto. But the Schimka house at 5306 Belardo Drive outdoes them all.

“Belardo Lights” is the brainchild of Randy and his teenage son, Brandon, who has autism. Father and son spend the whole year programming the custom built Christmas decorations to flash, blink, strobe, and cycle in time to a holiday playlist that broadcasts over a low-power FM station in the garage. Singing reindeer serenade viewers with Christmas standards old and new (my favorite was “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” to the tune of “Help”) while tap-dancing elves, flashing snowflakes, and a spiraling tree keep time. I won’t spoil the secret for how they got the realistic Santa Claus in the window because it’s fun to try and figure out before reading the handout that explains things. This is the 7th year for the display and, from what I gather, it’s a pretty big deal for Brandon, who is really into the programming and design.

It sounds corny, but it’s actually amazing. The story of how the idea got started is up on the well-maintained Belardo Lights website, but the thing to do is just go see it. The 25-song set takes about an hour to watch, which is just enough time to finish a cup of hot chocolate and maybe cuddle with a date on the sidewalk or in a car. The lights are on from 5:30-10PM every day through December 26th. In the event of rain (like tonight) the display gets shut down because the ground fault circuits go kablooey in the wet.

Here's a video (kept purposefully short) that doesn't spoil the effect too much:

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