Victoria family celebrates Jesus, freedom at Christmastime

The Burns family from left Seth, 16, Darryl, Sharon, and Hope, 14, decorate their house every year for Christmas. The lights on the tree behind them extend over the road and blink to the tune of different Christmas songs that play outside of the house.
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Lights are a Christmas epidemic at the Burns house, infecting their yard and home with Christmas cheer - even spilling across the street into the neighbor's yard through the trees.

"It's like a sickness with me," said Sharon Burns, 53, of Victoria, who has been decorating her yard for as long as she can remember.

From the time Burns was a child, her mother put lights on their house. When Burns had a home of her own, Christmas lights were always a priority.

"Even years we had nothing, by golly I was still going to decorate," Burns said.

One year, she used red Solo cups to put around the lights to decorate the yard. Neighbors teased her that her yard looked like a landing strip, she recalled.

But the decorations have grown each year since then. There are 50-60 boxes of lights in the arch that winds through the tress across the road because of how tightly they were wrapped around the trees.

"I had to build two separate circuits just for the lighting," said Darryl Burns, 47, of Victoria. "One neighbor lets us plug some lights in on their property, and another lets us use their tree for the over the street display."

The Christmas decorations have become so involved that the Burns have help each year from Santiago Cardoso.

"He gets just as excited as I do," Sharon Burns said. Burns and Cardoso start assembling the decorations in November, sometimes even before Thanksgiving in preparation for their yearly debut on Dec. 1.

While vignettes are added to the decorations each year, one display remains constant.

"I always have the nativity, and I have mannequin soldiers standing around it," Burns said. "I like to think if they were in combat at that time, they would have stopped to honor the Christ child."

Jesus is the reason for the season, Burns said. But Burns also wants to remember the troops who fight to secure the freedom of the United States.

"It started when my third son was deployed - my heart just ached," Sharon Burns said. "I was given a whole new perspective on having a son gone at war over the holidays."

For some, it's their spouses or their parents, Burns said, but last year, her third son was deployed overseas.

"This year, we are blessed to get to have everybody home," Burns said.

In addition to decorating the yard, Darryl and Sharon Burns and their six children have other unique Christmas traditions.

"On Christmas Eve, we always dance to 'Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring' all around the house," said Darryl Burns, 47, of Victoria. "It started when the kids were little, and we thought they'd grow out of it, but we do it every year. Sometimes our 18-year-old daughter, Faith, will ask, 'are we going to do the dance?'"

And heaven forbid leaving anyone out when the family selects its 12-foot tree.

"They may say they don't want to go, but you at least have to ask, or they'll get offended," Darryl Burns said.

Three of the Burns' sons have served in the United States military, and American soldiers will always have a special place in Burns heart - and in their yard.

"They are my heroes. We have no way of knowing all they sacrifice and what they have to go through. And they do it voluntarily," Sharon Burns said. "I can stop traffic with those soldiers - people think they're real. I see how much everybody enjoys it in the neighborhood, and it is so much fun."

EDIT: The Burns home featuring decorations with Nativity and military themes is at 1140 Westpark Ave. The address was not included in a story on Page B1 on Wednesday.