Lighting up the holiday: ‘That House’ brings joy to Milford

MILFORD — Many families decorate their home for the holidays — but Chris and Anna Donnells have taken their Christmas light display to a whole new level.

“We’ve been putting up lights every year, and one year we had 50,000 lights,” said Donnells, adding that the couple have adorned Christmas lights on their home for more than two decades.

This year, Donnells said they have 25,000 lights on display, which is on the lower end of what they used to do, primarily because they had to redo the siding of their home.

“Because we had to redo the siding of the house this year, we had to reposition some of the lights around and won’t have as many as in years prior,” Donnells said. “We had to move the snowflakes on the ground instead of on the house and we won’t have all of the house covered in lights this year either.”

The Christmas lights were turned on Friday, and Donnells said the display will run until Jan. 1. On Friday and Saturday, the lights are on from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., Sunday through Thursday from 5 p.m .to 9 p.m., and on Christmas Day and Christmas Eve, the lights will go a little longer from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.

“We don’t want to go past 11 p.m. so we can give our neighbors a break,” he said jokingly.

Even though they won’t have as many lights as in years prior, Donnells said it still fills him with joy because it gives people a smile every time they pass his seemingly glowing home.

“It does get harder and harder to do it every year, and I have thought about stopping,” he said. “But every year, people will tell me how they look forward to seeing the lights and how much it makes them smile. So that’s why I do it.”

The tradition of putting up lights at his house dates back to Donnells’ father.

“When I was a kid, my dad would always put up Christmas lights at our house, and I always said when I had my own home, I wanted to do the same,” he said.

Around seven years ago, Donnells had an idea to build a wooden mailbox so children of the community could write letters to Santa, and he would write them back.

“Last year, we had 300 letters written to Santa, which is a lot because we usually only get about 150 letters,” he said. “I’ve already had people reach out to me saying that their children were writing their letters to Santa and waiting to drop them off on Friday.”

Also, last year, Donnells said he had the idea of making wooden cars and trucks to give out to children.

“Last year, it just came to my mind to make them, and I would make 50 to 60 of them, and they would all be taken,” he said. “So a friend of mine helped me make them. It was just something to bring more joy to kids last year.”

Besides bringing joy to people, the Donnells use the tradition of putting up lights as a fundraiser to benefit the Connecticut Foodshare.

This year besides the regular fundraiser, Donnells said they are raffling a Doner Telecaster Electric Guitar — and all the proceeds will go to the Connecticut Foodshare.

“I’ve been a musician for 40 years, and I believe music plays an important part in our lives,” he said. “So this is a fun way to get kids into music, and the Donner Telecaster is a great beginner guitar.”

Donnells added there’s no purchase necessary to enter into the raffle. He said all that is required is to send an email to with your phone number and name to be entered into the raffle.

Only one person per family can enter, and they are only doing local pickup and deliveries.