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Canberra's best Christmas lights: The touching stories behind the city's displays

When Yvonne Anthoney watches the Christmas lights draped across her home twinkle in the darkness, she hopes they are bright enough for her late daughter Dainere to admire as well. 

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Canberra's best Christmas lights

Kambah's Bissenberger Crescent lights up again for Christmas.

In the  2½ years since their softly-spoken daughter succumbed to a paediatric brain tumour, Yvonne and her husband Stephen have honoured her last wishes by stringing thousands of bulbs across their Gungahlin home in order to brighten up the lives of other children across Australia.

"When she was diagnosed she decided she wanted to help other kids and families so no one would have to suffer like her," Yvonne said.

The Anthoney family of Gungahlin. From left, Stephen, Yvonne, Nalani, 21, and Jarrett, 20, with their Christmas lights ...
The Anthoney family of Gungahlin. From left, Stephen, Yvonne, Nalani, 21, and Jarrett, 20, with their Christmas lights display. Photo: Melissa Adams

Instead of letting grief consume her when she learnt the brain tumour which she had been diagnosed with in 2009 was going to kill her, Dainere instead turned her thoughts to others, Yvonne said.

For her last Christmas, she created a Christmas wonderland at her Delma View home to raise money for brain cancer research and to make people smile. 

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"She called it Dainere's splendiferous Christmas light display - that was one of her favourite words.

"She set it all up and had everyone in the family dress up, she dressed up as an angel and she had her dad as Santa Claus, me as Mrs Claus and her brother and sister were elves."

The Anthoney family decorate their home every year to remember Dainere.
The Anthoney family decorate their home every year to remember Dainere. Photo: Melissa Adams

Dainere  died in June 2013, aged 15, surrounded by those she loved most. Her family established Dainere's Rainbow Brain Tumour Research Fund to continue her life's work.  

Yvonne said it's a small comfort to know Dainere would enjoy the pleasure her family's display brings to others.

James Petterson's light display in Elia Ware Crescent is raising funds for Legacy Australia.
James Petterson's light display in Elia Ware Crescent is raising funds for Legacy Australia. Photo: Facebook

"When Dainere did [the display] in 2012 she said: "I love seeing people smile, it makes me feel happy and it makes my journey a little bit easier".

"Even over these last few nights we've had so many kids who are really happy and are like 'wow, look at that!' and their eyes sparkle and you can see you are bringing joy  so for us that's us continuing a very special legacy for Dainere.

"It makes us feel like Dainere is here with us at this special time of year and  that we hope  our lights are shining brightly enough so she can see them where she is."

The Anthoneys are one of several Canberra families who have decked out their homes to Griswoldian proportions as a festive fundraiser.

James Petterson has illuminated his Elia Ware Crescent home with   about 17,000 LED lights to put the spotlight on Legacy Australia.

"I saw a documentary two or three years ago about the work they were doing and in my street I've got about eight or nine defence families," he said.

With shuffling Stormtroopers and synchonised lights and music, James began designing his Bonner home's display in January and spent more than 250 hours programming the lights with the video. 

"We try and put a bit of humour in it so there's a lot of laughs and a lot of kids down the front dancing the whole night which is very cute and funny. When the  Stormtrooper Shuffle comes  on they try and copy that but the general reaction has been 'wow'."

It was a family member's cancer diagnosis which inspired Philip Gartner to garb his Tillyard Drive home in a symphony of light and colour to raise funds for the Canberra Cancer Support Group.

 

Another video clip shot on the iPhone 6

Posted by XMAS Lights on Tillyard Drive on Wednesday, December 16, 2015

He estimates thousands of people flock to his Flynn home to "ooh" and "aah" over his nightly light show every year.

"We go through approximately 2000 glow sticks every year which we hand out to children," he said.

"We personally meet and greet every single one of those people and will say merry Christmas."

The Canberra Times is compiling its most extensive Christmas lights map to date to create the ultimate light-viewing guide.

Entries are now open for Canberrans to add their homes to the growing interactive map.

Simply fill in the form below and we'll take care of the rest. You can also send a photo of your festively-dressed house to katie.burgess@fairfaxmedia.com.au and don't forget to include your address.

Entries close at 10am on December 24.

Check out our Canberra Christmas lights map so far:

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