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Couple spreads Christmas cheer

SARAH ARGYLE
Last updated 05:00 19/12/2012
Bernard Harding

FESTIVE FUN: Bernard Harding with one of his previous Christmas displays.

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A couple has assumed the role of Mr and Mrs Claus to spread Christmas cheer throughout the community.

Eighteen years ago Bernard and Diana Harding of Howick spontaneously put a set of festive lights on their fence.

In years to come the number of lights on the Harding's Botany Rd property grew and so too did the number of people who flocked to see them.

Mr Harding says one night he timed how long it took for the queue of people to reach the lights and discovered it was an hour and a half.

"The council eventually stopped us from having the display because the 4000 people lining up were disrupting traffic.

"The Howick Village Association were very kind and suggested we transfer the display to Fencible Park and so we did."

Mrs Harding says Boxing Day is the last chance to see the display and Christmas Day is the couple's one night off.

The free Christmas display is open daily from 8pm to 11pm with Santa in attendance in his grotto from 8pm to 9pm.

"You don't get something for nothing these days and we want to be different," she says.

"It's fun watching the big and little kids enjoy themselves."

Mr Harding says the pair want people to keep coming to the display.

"We've now got people who used to come when they were children bringing their own children.

"It's nice to know we are building good memories," he says.

Each year the couple, who import the lights and decorations from China, try to think of something different to add to the display.

Three weeks ago they welcomed their first granddaughter into the world and they are looking forward to showing her the lighting display.

"She'll be able to see the lights but focusing will be a different story," Mrs Harding laughs.

Mr and Mrs Harding have a book for visitors to leave their comments.

And it is clear the community enjoys the display.

One message reads: "Thank you for bring and keeping Christmas alive."

While another says: "My very best place to visit every Christmas."

As well as the lights and displays the couple has a letterbox where children who visit the display can send their Christmas wishlists to Santa.

The Hardings request a return address and endeavour to reply to all the letters they receive.

Mrs Harding's favourite was written by an eight-year-old girl.

It reads: "All I wish for this Christmas is the sensible thing to prevent poverty to the world.

"Please I don't want a fancy toy at all. Keep doing your thing Santa."

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- Eastern Courier

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