Shining bright this Christmas: Lighten UP helping Calgarians spread cheer and charity

Map of Christmas lights makes holiday season outings easy

Silvana Stoesser posed at her home, well known for annual ornate Christmas displays, in the community of Deer Run in Calgary on Thursday, December 9, 2021. Her display has drawn many visitors yearly, including international tourists travelling by bus. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

For the past five years, Silvana Stoesser and Christian Fruhen have been helping Calgarians find the best places in the city to view Christmas lights.

Lighten UP Calgary collects Christmas light location submissions from Calgary and local communities. An interactive map displays these houses.

Viewers can also select a quadrant of the city and view the entire list of submitted houses.

“We give people the opportunity to look at the map and drive around and look at the lights,” said Stoesser.

“And yeah, we have a big Christmas display ourselves,” she said.

Their own display, located at 15003 Deer Run Drive SE, annually draws hundreds of visitors. Even some international visitors who have made the visit during tourist bus stops.

The map of lights is located at lightenupcalgary.ca/map.

Creating the spirit of Christmas

Building Christmas spirit has been really important for Stroesser and Fruhen.

The pair use the website to encourage local community members to get outdoors, see what their neighbours have made for the season, and to give back to worthy causes.

“A lot of people drive around and look at Christmas lights—they appreciate it, and then they also want to give back a little bit,” said Stoesser.

“I think it’s very important to have a charity you support,” she said.

Every house that’s submitted allows for owners to display their charity of choice. They have invited the community to donate to those causes.

Lighten UP Calgary has also supported the Calgary Food Bank and The Veterans Food Bank for the past five years.

Making Christmas lights accessible during the pandemic

Stoesser said that not everyone has been able to travel around the city to look at Christmas lights.

Seniors especially have been hard hit. For that reason Lighten UP has included photos of all of the Christmas lights with the houses this year.

“We realize that it is also very important for some older people, that if they’re not able to travel, that they still can look at it,” she said.

“Over the last two years with a pandemic, the seniors especially appreciate that they can look at it without leaving the house.”

Still, said Stoesser, they have found it very gratifying when local seniors’ homes have been able to drive residents by their Christmas display.

Clicking on the Santa icons on the map of houses brings up submitted Christmas light photos for each home.

And for those who are able to make it out to see the lights, each entry includes days of the week and times of the day that the Christmas lights will be on.

How it all comes together

The website runs year-round, but really starts going around the beginning of November.

The locations of Christmas light displays can be entered by their creators on a form located on the website.

Stoesser said that they receive between 10 to 20 new submissions each day.

“It has been a little bit challenging over the last few years because the more and more people sign up, the more work it is,” she said.

Stoesser and Fruhen spend between two and three hours each night entering the houses onto the website.

“So there was actually Lighten UP Calgary map before, and the person that before didn’t want to do that anymore, and then we took over,” she said.

Still, she said, she was appreciative of the growing number of people visiting and using Lighten UP Calgary. A number that during November through January can exceed over 400,000 site visits.

Still she said, it is all about spreading holiday spirit.

“That’s the only thing, so it’s just the Christmas spirit.”

Christmas lights photos

Silvana Stoesser’s home, well known for annual ornate Christmas displays, in the community of Deer Run in Calgary on Thursday, December 9, 2021. Her display has drawn many visitors yearly, including international tourists travelling by bus. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
Santa at Silvana Stoesser’s annual ornate Christmas display in the community of Deer Run in Calgary on Thursday, December 9, 2021. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
Caroling snow-people at Silvana Stoesser’s annual ornate Christmas display in the community of Deer Run in Calgary on Thursday, December 9, 2021. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
The Broome’s Candy Cane Lane in the community of Evanston in Calgary on Thursday, December 9, 2021. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
A Christmas display in the community of Parkside in Calgary on Thursday, December 9, 2021. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
A number of Christmas lights along Evanston Dry Pond Park in the community of Evanston in Calgary on Thursday, December 9, 2021. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
A miniature Polar Express train and photo booth Christmas display in the community of Hidden Valley in Calgary on Thursday, December 9, 2021. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY
A Christmas display in the community of Panorama Hills in Calgary on Thursday, December 9, 2021. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

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