JACKSON – It wouldn’t be Christmas in the township without the Cook Holiday House lit up bright for the season.
By tradition, Michael Cook, his wife Carol and members of his family begin setting up the decorations at their home on 1 Carlson Court before the weekend of Thanksgiving. Preparation for it is actually a yearlong process. The display also serves as a benefit for charity.
“We truly love doing the show. This year we started building the new additions in July and I started working on the music in August. It takes a lot of work to put it all together but this year’s show has come out as our best yet. We love watching the viewers sing with the music and seeing the kids’ faces light up when they see the show,” Michael Cook said.
The experience has run for more than a decade “We are at about 30,000 lights, four singing trees, a 20-foot spiral tree and a 1,008-bulb pixel matrix which we can do imaging with,” Michael said.
He noted that several major changes have been made to the show in the last two years. “We have transitioned to a mostly pixel show and only have about 3,400 standard LED string lights. The show now consists of almost 8,000 pixels, including the matrix, four singing faces, seven arches, multiple mini-trees and other props.
“This year’s show consists of six songs and lasts about 22 minutes. As in past years we went live the Saturday after Thanksgiving and will run through New Year’s night. In order to ‘listen to our lights’ your radio needs to be tuned to FM100.9,” he said. “All the lights are synchronized to music. The free show will run nightly from 6 -10 p.m. Sunday – Thursday and 6-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. We have heard many stories over the years about how our show has brought Christmas spirit to those visiting and watching it.”
He added, “it warms us when we are told that we have become part of someone’s Christmas tradition. All the hard work is worth it when the kids tell us how much they love the show or give us handmade Christmas cards.”
Another tradition is for Michael Cook to wear his bright orange Santa cap when handing out candy canes and accepting donations for multiple sclerosis. The cap includes the letters MS and it was presented to him by representatives of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. Orange is the color for the cause of curing MS.
“My stepson son was diagnosed with juvenile MS at the age of 13. They say that between 5,000-11,000 kids have MS. It is rare that they are diagnosed that young. His first symptom was that he went blind in his left eye. He got the vision back after some treatments,” Michael Cook added.
“The MS Society is the primary driver of research. That is why we picked them to donate to because we don’t want better treatments which is nice but we want a cure. They are researching that and coming closer and closer to it,” he said.
He told The Jackson Times on December 14, “we are excited and amazed to announce that we have now raised over $50,000 for the National MS Society over the life of our show.”
“The generosity of those visiting our show is truly amazing. Just thinking about what has been donated reaffirms our faith in people,” he said.
Cook said he is still in awe of the donations made. “To us that is unbelievable. At night we come out I go running up and down the road saying hello to everyone and handing out candy canes just the idea that people are willing to donate money to a cause like that because we have a house with a Christmas display is really overwhelming.”
The Christmas couple noted that this concept truly brings the spirit of the holidays home. “We can’t tell how many people stop by and see the house,” Carol Cook said. She once told The Jackson Times that she wished they had a traffic counter.
“We handed out over 6,000 candy canes one year as I was running up and down the road so if that is any indication as to how many people stop by and not everyone takes a candy cane,” Michael Cook added. “We try to be very mindful of the neighbors. When we start rolling a lot of people in the neighborhood come out to watch it which is what it is for and it tends to cause a little bit of a traffic issue. We try to direct traffic to make sure people aren’t blocking driveways.”
More information can be found at facebook.com/cookschristmasnj