Christmas lights have been a tradition in the Valenzuela family for the past 15 years.

“I started in February,” Pamela Valenzuela said, who works alongside her husband and son to get lights up by Thanksgiving weekend.

“I saw a pattern in the store one day, back when our son was 8 or 9,” she said. Her son is now 30. “My husband showed me how to work a jigsaw, and a couple years later we made a Nativity scene.”

Valenzuela has a full-time job with other priorities, but said she manages to set aside time to decorate and create the cutouts placed throughout their yard.

“I’m not an artist, but I sand, cut, prime and paint it all,” Valenzuela said. “I made all the wood stuff, and then my husband and son figured out a way to devise an apparatus to have the reindeer up there.”

Valenzuela’s husband, Paul, said he likes to do something with a theme in mind.

“We have a rock band over here,” he said, pointing to the front left side of the lawn coming in from the street. “You have a candy shop over there (right side coming in from the street).”

“We try not to be Christmas vomit,” Pamela Valenzuela said, laughing.

“We call it ‘Christmas vomit’ when people just fill up their yards with stuff,” Paul Valenzuela said. “We’ve got a lot of stuff, but we try to keep it a consistent theme.”

The family used to blow the electricity at their home, but they changed over most of their lights recently to LED, which has helped. They also have extra electrical panels inside their garage.

“This year, we were in more of a crunch so we did it in eight days,” Pamela Valenzuela said.

She also takes off a week to get the grounds ready beforehand.

“We were out here from pretty much morning until dark,” she said.

Visiting children with their parents walked up and down the sidewalk several times; their faces lighting up at the sight of all the lights. One child yelled “Merry Christmas!” and the family waved as they got in their car and drove away.

The family’s two dogs, Junior and Max, lay out on a large blanket, while their son and his girlfriend and children sat around the bonfire to wave to those going by.

“One year was really hard on us physically, and it was warm that year, and we were facing the sun feeling sorry for ourselves when a gentleman came by. He stopped to get out of his car in the daytime, and he told us his daughter had stage 4 cancer the previous year and would bring her son every night and sit in the car to see the lights,” Pamela Valenzuela said.

“At the time, our neighbor’s house was also lit, and they would sit and enjoy our houses for hours,” she said. “At that time when he was telling us, she was in remission.”

“That one family, you know. You just feel like it’s a lot of work and then someone tells you a story like that and you’re like, how bad is this in the grand scheme of things?” Paul Valenzuela said.

“We hear through the years stories, and there are other times when people thank us and we joke and tell them to come grab a hammer and help,” Pamela Valenzuela said, laughing.

Teardown takes about two days.

“We have a pretty good system of storing things,” Paul Valenzuela said. “You know, the nice thing about plywood is once you take all the brackets and stuff off they pretty much lay flat.”

At the end of last season, they sold some of their outdoor Christmas decor to a sergeant from the Riverside County Sheriff Department in Perris.

“He had always told me that if I wanted to sell anything to let him know,” Pamela Valenzuela said. “I ended up selling him a full nativity set and a train.

“We used to have a Santa’s workshop a couple years back, and another military family bought that,” she said.

At the end of the day, it’s about the children and their families, she said.

“You see the looks on the kids’ faces and their parents, and it’s a good feeling. It’s our gift to the neighborhood,” Paul Valenzuela said. “When we set everything up, we look at it from the kids’ level. What can they see? We want them to be able to see it from all different angles as they walk up and down the sidewalk. We put out the effort, and we want people to enjoy it.”

Lexington Howe can be reached by email at valleystaff@reedermedia.com.

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