Lights of Joy

Joy Heintze amongst the Christmas lights display she has been putting up at her home in Greenock for at least 25 years.

Few things capture the magic of the season like homes decked out in all their splendour at Christmas.

Warm summer evenings spent weaving through unfamiliar streets, marvelling at twinkling coloured lights, whimsical nativities and jolly Santas is a childhood memory that many can relate to.

As an adult, there’s pleasure still in taking a few moments at this hectic time of year to slow down, lower the car windows, take a deep breath and just look.

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And if ever there was a house worth looking at, it’s Joy and Eric Heintze’s.

The Heinzes will be familiar to many as owners of Greenock Creek Charter, and while they spend much of their time touring the sights of the countryside by bus, it’s their own house on Adelaide Road in Greenock that has become a must-see on the local Christmas lights tour list.

“We started here when we bought our first semi coach, we went down to Lobethal Lights and that was it!” said Joy, sitting on her front lawn, surrounded by strings of lights and a plethora of ornaments, including snowmen, manger animals, wise men and even a pair of meerkats.

“They had a shop down there at the time and I bought a few things to hang up and that was it, it just grew and grew and grew until now.”

Such is the size and detail of Joy’s light display, which adorns the front of the house, trails up garden pathways, across gutters and fences and ponds, she won the 2018 Co-op Christmas Light Competition, without even knowing she was in the running.

“A lady came to the gate and said, I’ve come to take some photos and tell you you’ve won. I looked at her and said, won what?” Joy laughed.

It was later revealed that the couple’s daughter, Ann had secretly registered her parents’ house.

“I’ve never kept check of the trail or anything, because I do it for the kids,” said Joy.

“It’s lovely hearing them stop outside. I’ve never ever wanted to do it for competition.”

Joy’s husband of 55 years, Eric, is a quiet supporter of her passion, preferring to stick to repairs and maintenance over creative design.

“I never know how she wants it done!” he said.

Joy admits she can be a little “pedantic” when it comes to placement of the lights, however her design is free flowing, with new elements being added each year as others bow out of service from age and wear and tear. Star lights are a popular feature of this year’s display.

“I don’t go to any fuss. If it doesn’t look right, I change it,” she said.

“This year I’ve got some lovely little things on the lawn, Santas, bells and candy canes.”

Installing a display as complicated as Joy’s is not a weekend undertaking; the boxes, which take up close to a car space in the shed, come out of storage nearly two months before Christmas Day.

“I can’t work on it all day, impossible,” said Joy.

“I do a bit morning and night. I start at the end of October, getting everything out the shed then gradually put things up.”

It’s anyone’s guess as to just how many lights and ornaments she actually has in her collection.

“I’ve never ever counted,” she laughed.

“I wouldn’t know how many globes, I’ve never bothered about it. Some say they have 20,000 lights, well, you’d have to read every box, and that’s not me!”

Year after year Joy and Eric’s house has delighted countless children—and adults—who find themselves wrapped up in the wonder of the thoughtful and creative details Joy puts into every corner of her garden.

And while there’s talk that this may be the last year she sets up the display, Joy admits she says that almost every year.

“There’s this thing called age that creeps up. I know I do things I’m not supposed to, but too bad,” she said with a laugh.

“If I fall off the ladder, you know I went doing something I like!”