What has over 30,000 Christmas lights, live Christmas music and snow? The Caine Woods Christmas of course!
The Beginning of a Beautiful Tradition
The elaborately decorated Christmas house sits tucked in the small neighborhood just off of Coastal Highway in Ocean City around 139th street and the bay side. Mark and Jessica Jahnke, full time Ocean City residents, began putting together the magnificent holiday light show about five years ago during the beginning of the pandemic. Mark says, “I loved decorating since I was a kid, and going around to see Christmas displays with my parents. The idea to do a pixel show synced to music came to fruition during COVID when I needed to learn something new.”
Anyone ‘Caine’ Do It!
With a background in IT, one might think that Mark thought this to be an easy task, right? Plug in a few strands of lights and hook up some music- how hard could it be? Well…
“All of the programming for the light show is done in a program called xLights. It is a very powerful program that takes years to learn. First you upload a picture of your house, and then you start building your layout, adding your controllers, getting them onto your network, adding props, and then sequencing the songs,” Mark explains. “It is very detailed, and takes countless hours to program the songs. While most people think that you just turn on the music and the lights do everything on their own, this is not the case. On average, it takes 8-10 hours per minute of music to program depending on how detailed you want to get with the song. Creating a lyric track adds anywhere from 5-10 hours and you first have to import the lyrics, then drag them to align with the song word by word, and then set the mouth movements. There are 7-9 different mouth movements for most of the singing face props that I have. In short, there is a very niche market for things like this, and it is not something that you can piece together at a big box store. I have about 10 different vendors that I mainly buy from who make anything from the pixels, to the controllers, to the different props on the house and in the yard.” With zero electrical or lights expertise, Jahnke relied on watching You Tube videos and joining special Facebook groups for guidance and questions.
A Year Round Job Like Santa
Setup is year round as far as programming each individual song to the lights. “Physical setup usually starts on November 1st, and the first lights are typically on Thanksgiving night, but I continue to tweak the show all through the season. Here it is, December, and I am still adding props and songs. Main setup this year took about 200 hours over the course of 5 weeks. We had some days where Jessica and I were outside 15-18 hours all weekend long.”
Christmas and Tetris?
“Jessica helps out where she can as well. She is key when it comes to getting things out of the attic, and into the attic. She is also a huge help hanging things while I am up on the ladder. She is also great at troubleshooting bad pixels that need to be replaced. And she is the one who comes up with all the ideas for our side holiday decor!” Did he say attic? Yes! All decorations are stored right here at the Caine Woods Christmas house in the attic! The couple describes putting things away like a huge game of Tetris.
Community and A Cause
If you’ve ever been to see the amazing light show, you couldn’t miss the QR code and mention of a donation. Mark and Jessica raise money every year from fellow Christmas lovers for the Believe In Tomorrow’s Children’s Foundation. “The Believe In Tomorrow Children’s Foundation provides exceptional hospital and respite housing services to critically ill children and their families. Their unique programs bring comfort, hope, and joy to children and their families, enabling them to renew their spirits mentally and physically. They have the House by the Sea, and the House by the Bay here in Ocean City that families can use to take their minds off of what their children are going through. It is an amazing organization, and 97% of the funds raised by donation directly benefits the families they are supporting. This is amazing compared to organizations who are less than 50%,” Mark explains. Signs are posted at the house with a QR code for anyone who is interested in making a donation as well as online on their Facebook page. So far in the past two years the Jahnke family has raised over $5,000 for the foundation. This year has come a little short, about $1,500, but the season isn’t over yet!
Christmas Music to Our Ears
In addition to the incredible light show, viewers who come by car get the extra bonus of being able to tune into a local radio station posted on the running ticker that crawls across the house. If anyone chooses to walk over to see the show, there is a button to the left of the driveway for viewers to enjoy the music from the display itself. “As of this morning, the playlist consisted of 27 songs. There is also a static introductory sequence that runs from 5PM-5:30PM, and then a quick public safety announcement asking people to turn off their main headlights, not block the neighbors driveways, and to keep their volume at a reasonable level for the neighbors.” For a sneak peak of the show and music, click here!
It’s All in Good Christmas Fun
Speaking of neighbors…How do Mark’s neighbors feel about such an elaborate display of Christmas cheer? “The neighbors are all over supportive, but there are also only a few that live here year round. The ditto signs are for fun and I do ask their permission to add them to their front lawn.”
Things We Still Needed to Know…
Is your favorite Christmas movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation by chance? “Definitely in my top 5 Christmas movies along with Deck the Halls, and Elf. It’s so hard to choose when there are so many classics out there like It’s a Wonderful Life, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, A Christmas Story, A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, etc. Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?” We might need to do a poll for our oceancity.com readers on this one…
Are your decorations donated or all out of pocket? “They are all paid for out of pocket.”
What does your electric bill look like for the holiday months? “It typically goes up $20-$30 during the show season. All of the RGB pixels are very efficient, and I am only running them at 30% brightness. At anything over 50%, it starts to hurt your eyes after a while, and it really does not photograph well. The other things to think about is the simple fact that they are not constantly on, and all doing different things.”
“Action!”…(in a Charlie Brown Christmas voice)
If you’d like to visit the Caine Woods Christmas House, the show runs from approximately 5:30pm-10pm, which begins the night before Thanksgiving and stays up through the holiday season until the beginning of January. For more information about The Caine Woods Christmas House visit their Facebook Page. And to donate to The Believe In Tomorrow Children’s Foundation, you can visit The Caine Woods Christmas House page.