Since 2004, Antonio Filippini and his wife Matilde have taken on the huge task of decorating their house for Christmas very seriously, drawing thousands of curious visitors every year who come to admire their display of lights.
On the last Friday of November, they welcome the Christmas season by organising a big event in which the lights are turned on for the first time since the previous year.
Every Christmas symbol you can imagine is present in their yard, from reindeer to nativity scenes, and the entire display is lit up by thousands of twinkling lights.
The result is a captivating colour show.
The couple’s passion for Christmas decorations spans around 28 years.
“We began with small things, and as we continued to add to our collection over the years, people became interested and began to look at what we were doing outside,” Antonio says.
“One year we decided to decorate the backyard and open the gate so people could come in.”
It was those first visitors who gave him a great idea.
“They kept saying that I could ask for donations for entrance to cover the electricity costs, but I wasn’t worried about that,” Antonio explains.
“I took their advice on asking for donations, but I decided to dedicate the funds to charity.”
In 2001, Antonio had a heart attack and he relied on the Heart Foundation for treatment.
“We chose to donate all the money we raise through our passion to this organisation, which was very important and helpful to me,” he says.
In the first year, the couple raised just under $2000 and the proceeds have slowly risen each year.
“In 2015, we reached $15,000, but last year’s amount shocked everybody: $32,000,” Antonio says.
“Even the foundation was stunned.”
Some Melbourne television channels have broadcast segments on the Filippinis’ home and this exposure has led to a record rise in visitors.
“Last Christmas Eve, when we invited Santa Claus to come and take photos with children, we had to hire three security guards to manage the crowds,” Antonio recalls.
The couple’s children encourage them to not stress too much during the lengthy preparation required for this project.
“I said that when I turned 70 I’d stop,” Antonio confesses.
“But I’ve reached that age and we’re already collecting lights for next year.”
Every year, the couple have to buy new lights and decorations, as they become damaged during the month they’re on display.
Antonio and Matilde, hailing from Nicastro (now a part of Lamezia Terme) and the Aeolian Islands respectively, will open their home at 118 The Boulevard, Thomastown, every night from 8:00 pm to 11:00 pm until December 27.
You’ll find them in their yard every day, ready to welcome you with 120,000 lights and a whole lot of Christmas spirit.