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Three decades ago, James and Sharon Sears strung up some Christmas lights outside their home on Tyler Avenue in Annapolis.

Year after year, the collection grew as the Searses added candles and ornaments and wreaths and Santas and reindeer to the display.

This year, after they added a life-size illuminated Nativity scene, a reindeer and a snowman, traffic began stopping in front of their house in the 1100 block of Tyler Avenue.

"I love to see people's expressions," Sharon said. "Cars just line up along Tyler Avenue. Kids in school buses press up against the windows. I love it."

It's taken 29 years to get to the point where rush-hour traffic stops to ogle the Searses' front yard.

"The first year, we just put lights out," Sharon said. "We couldn't afford to do anything else. Over the years, as we could afford it, we'd add a Santa Claus or a reindeer. The neighbors are always wondering what we're going to do next."

Sharon is especially proud of the new Nativity scene. "He's the reason we celebrate the season," she said.

The house and front yard decorations are augmented by speakers playing Christmas carols when the lights are on, from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sharon even tied a yellow ribbon around a tree "for all our boys in Saudi Arabia."

Their three grandchildren helped them decorate. "They're our little helpers," James said.

The Searses' Christmas spirit doesn't stop at the front door. Inside, they have two Christmas trees, several Santas, ceramic Christmas trees, angels, dolls, statues, candles, mistletoe and Christmas place mats and napkins. Their coffee cups play "Jingle Bells" when you pick them up.

"I'm a Christmas person," Sharon said. "The kids always say, 'There goes mom; right after the last bite of Thanksgiving turkey, she starts singing Christmas carols.' " "We do it for the joy of it," said James, who retired two years ago after 27 years as a city firefighter.

As a retired fire lieutenant, James makes sure the display is safe. All the wires are wrapped in plastic and tape.

They stopped buying live Christmas trees about 10 years ago. Before that, when the tree would dry up, he wouldn't let her turn the lights on anymore. "He'd tell me, 'Sharon, you're going to burn up the house,' " she said.

The Searses said they've never had any vandalism, although kids unscrewed light bulbs they had strung along the fence one year. "Everybody respects our things," she said.

They also decorate their home for Halloween and Easter.

They're not sure how much they've spent on holiday decorations over the years, but they said their electric bill doesn't go up much around Christmas.

"And you get so much out of it, who cares?" Sharon said.

What's next for Annapolis' answer to Rockefeller Plaza? For starters, the Searses say they're in the market for a life-size sleigh and reindeer.

"I don't know what we're going to do next year," James said. "We'll do something different."

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