MELBOURNE, Fla. - 'Twas seven weeks before Christmas, when all through the Bottiglieri house, all the family was working – even Mickey Mouse.
For nearly 40 years, Frank and his wife Jeanne have dedicated hundreds of hours to decking the lawn.
"We probably started in the second week of October," Jeanne said.
They even started to build Santa's workshop in the garage.
"By Nov. 1, we have to start doing the lights," Jeanne continued. They hang them around the house and on the roof.
The weekend before Thanksgiving and leading up to the holiday, the Bottiglieris add figures to the lawn.
"Then it goes all through the year, buying more things, trading, selling," Frank said.
It's cost them a pretty penny over the years.
"Thirty-six years, or 37 … I don't know, you're probably talking almost $100,000," Frank said.
Think they have an expensive electricity bill? Jeanne and Frank say it's not – since they use LED lights, and don't use their air conditioning in the winter. They said it all balances out, only costing them a few hundred dollars in December.
And to think it all started with just two Christmas characters. A Snowman and Santa Claus were the first two pieces the couple ever bought.
Frank bought them in 1986 after they got married. He wanted to emulate houses he admired growing up in New York. And from there, their collection grew more than the Grinch's heart.
Now, Frank says they can't stop. Between the yard and Santa's workshop, there are nearly 400 characters.
"I feel a sense of pride," Frank said. "It was hard work."
In the end, all their work is done to spread Christmas cheer – and create core memories for their children.
Photo: Bottlglieri Family
Some may think it's an extreme passion. The Bottiglieris say it is, but they love it. And Frank said it's all worth it to leave a legacy for their two sons, Frank and Nick.
"That they think back when I'm gone, and they'll say, ‘Dad would have loved this’ or something like that," Frank said.