A Hobby of Happiness: Utah family’s viral Hamilton Christmas Lights show
SARATOGA SPRINGS, Utah — Mitch and Shenan Faas say that Clark Griswold from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is probably their spirit animal.
The couple recently got some international attention for their yearly Christmas light show after a clip of their house lights flashing to a medley from the musical Hamilton caught the attention of the creator of the show himself, Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Lights on full display in Hamilton Christmas show
The Faases said there are probably around 15,000 lights, or pixels, that adorn the front side of their house, but in reality, there are a lot more lights.
“Each one of them has a little micro computerized chip in it so we can individually control everything. And each light, each pixel, has three RGB [red, green and blue] lights so we can change them to any color,” Mitch Faas said.
“I wouldn’t say less is more, but we can do a lot with them.”
And it’s not just the lights that take a lot of work. Shenan is the mastermind behind matching the lights up with the music. “My wife is the genius behind the music and lights,” said Mitch.
For the Hamilton display, it took her approximately eight hours to complete. “I have to take all the lyrics and break them into phrases,” Shenan explained.
Despite their talent exemplifying otherwise, the Faases state they’re in no way professionals. Mitch is in sales at Qualtrics and Shenan is a carpenter, but they jumped in and set up their show.
“Everyone thinks we are light technicians, but we’re the exact opposite from it,” said Mitch. “It’s really just lots of Youtube videos.”
But, they do take the entire year to brainstorm their extravagant light show.
“People wonder why we’re bringing up Christmas lights or talking about Christmas lights in like July or in May, and I’m nerding out about it like, ‘Oh we just found this awesome song to sequence!” Mitch said.
A hobby of happiness
The inspiration stuck three years ago when the Faas family was living in Arizona.
It was a Faas family tradition to see Christmas lights with their four kids.
“We’d put them in the car and drive around and just go sit at Christmas shows literally all over the state,” Shenan said.
“We’d get pizza and hot chocolate and it would be our family tradition, and we still do that to this day. We would sit there for way longer than most people, and we were infatuated with it.”
So they set out to do their own show, hoping to create a tradition for other families.
After they moved to Utah in March they started setting up for their first show in Saratoga Springs and this year, they made it bigger.
“We had a little bit of extra time this year,” Shenan joked, saying this year they doubled their show from last Christmas. They gave the COVID-19 pandemic the credit for the extra time on their hands.
“It’s actually the perfect COVID activity,” said Mitch. “We wanted to create traditions for other families where they didn’t have to break the bank.”
Not throwing away their shot
The Faases, big Hamilton fans, like to mix up their shows with some songs beyond traditional Christmas classics; they figured that Hamilton would be a great option.
“We’d been posting the videos [of our shows] online, and Hamilton was just taking off, everyone was sharing it like crazy,” Shenan said. “Then we got a message on Facebook that [Lin-Manuel Miranda’s] dad had seen our video and was looking for more information on us.”
“We were like, oh my gosh! If Lin-Manuel sees it and does a little heart on Instagram or Twitter or something we’d be like, boom, we could screenshot that, totally fan-girl and be happy with it,” Mitch added.
Wait for it …
They said they were at the park with their kids when Mitch’s phone got a notification that someone had donated to their link supporting United Way of Utah County.
“And I looked down and it was a Venmo notification and [Lin-Manuel Miranda’s] face pops up, and it says, ‘Happy holidays, amazing display. Siempre LMM’ and he donated $1,000” Mitch said. “It was surreal.”
Hamilton creator shares Christmas display
The official Hamilton page on Facebook and Twitter also shared the video of the Christmas display. The Faases said they’ve been receiving comments and videos from countries all over the world.
“It’s so fun to see people enjoy it, and that makes all the hard work, the thousands of hours we put into it this year worth it,” they said. “In 2020, we need it. We need something, some good news, some fun stuff to brighten the day.”
The ‘Very Merry Meridian’ light show takes place every night starting at 5:30 in Saratoga Springs and asks that anyone making the trip be respectful of their neighbors (who love the show) by not blocking their driveways or playing your music too loud.
Additionally, the Faases request visitors avoid weekends if possible. At one point, cars were waiting nearly 30 minutes just to turn onto their street.
They also have set up a custom donation link to benefit the United Way of Utah County’s Sub for Santa that is helping Utah County families who are struggling this holiday season to get winter and school clothes, books and Christmas toys.
“This is a hobby for my wife and I to give back,” said Mitch. So far, they’ve raised more than $1,600 for the cause, and more donations keep coming in.
“It makes all the hundreds of hours worth it,” both said.
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