Christmas spectacular at the Maris house
Wilmette Friday 12.21.12. Steve Maris and his wife Meg are shown with their children Johnny (left) and Joey (right) outside of their holiday decorated Wilmette home on Dec. 21. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 4, 2013 6:07AM
WILMETTE — December 25 is past.
That means piles of wrapping paper are in trash bags or fireplaces, the turkey is now tetrazinni base and exhausted parents can’t remember why they thought giving a three-year-old a video game with WWF sound effects was a good idea.
In short, Christmas is so very, very over.
Except at 1200 Cleveland Street, Wilmette, where Steve Maris celebrates it in 50,000 lights’ worth of glorious, dancing color and a sound track, computer-synchronized to those lights, singing joyous Noel to all who pass by his lawn, or stop to gaze in wonderment at it.
Maris and wife Meg, who along with sons Johnny, 6, and Joey, 3, have lived in west Wilmette for six years, don’t mind at all that their neighbors call their home the Christmas house: “Christmas is huge in our house,” Maris said last week. “We’re Christmas junkies here.”
They have always put up elaborate Christmas-themed displays, but two years ago, Steve Maris’ yuletide ambitions leaped exponentially when he decided that a few moving lights weren’t enough.
He did some online research, found a software program that allowed him to program lights to music through 112 control channels, and spent 10 months preparing (two months on the music score alone) for Christmas 2011. He set up a mini FM radio station so that listeners could hear the score on their cars if they tuned in.
He soldered together frameworks for 30,000 lights, including an aluminum “Mega Tree” that was a focal point for the light show. He taught himself the basics of electrical wiring, built circuit boxes from scratch, put it all together, tested it, and threw the switch the day after Thanksgiving.
The result was a scripted extravaganza so alluring to passers-by that Meg Maris actually held an open house in mid-December for her neighbors, and raised money for Children’s Memorial Hospital at the event.
Shortly after the curtain came down last January, Maris was back at work, determined to make 2012 even better, although he admitted last week that he got a late start because he wanted to add a few more things.
“The tech aspect is what keeps me interested,” he confessed. “It’s fun to devise a plan and bring it to reality.
“The smiles on everybody’s faces is the icing on top.”
Not that he seeks out the kudos, his very proud wife interjected. He will ask her to go outside to hear what people are saying as they listen to the show, but he rarely goes out, except to make sure it’s running correctly. When he does leave the house, usually once a night to check his handiwork, “people applaud for him,” Meg Maris said.
They are also collecting donations for the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital. And if area residents found their post-Christmas blahs suspended for a few minutes by all of Steve’s hard work, they can pay some of the joy forward by sending a check payable to the hospital and sent in care of 1200 Cleveland Ave., Wilmette 60091.
For a taste of what Steve Maris’ love of Christmas has wrought this Christmas, check out this YouTube video:.