... and a partridge in a pear tree

Lutherville neighbors put the 12 days of Christmas on display

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December 16, 2006|By LaKaiia Williams | LaKaiia Williams,sun reporter

In this day of inflatable snow globes and programmable twinkling lights, the families on Barts Court in Lutherville keep the spirit of Christmas alive with their homemade interpretations of the popular song "The Twelve Days of Christmas."

Their display is just one of several holiday light shows put on by neighborhoods or community organizations that are worth a visit this holiday season.

As they have been for the past 15 years, the 10 houses on Barts Court are decorated in white lights, and hand-painted signs depicting one of the days in the popular Christmas song. Five gold rings hang from a real pear tree on the court.

"When we moved in, it was the 15th of December [2001], and I got stuck with three signs. I was pregnant and struggling to put up lights and signs," recalls resident Aimee Yardley with a laugh. Her house now displays the court's welcome sign as well as the partridge in a pear tree.

Resident Debbie Nesbitt says the tradition began when a neighbor, Marg McCullen, came up with the idea six weeks before Christmas.

"We had no idea how or what to do to bring the idea to life," Nesbitt says who ended up with two turtle doves.

Nesbitt, McCullen and another neighbor, Jane Ruppel, drove around and looked in Christmas and craft stores from Baltimore to Pennsylvania searching for ideas. Then they happened to meet a man who makes gazebos and sheds. He referred them to Peter Mischa, a local carpenter and artist.

Mischa created the signs that are the focal point of the display that has been put up each year without fail, even as houses on the court have been sold and new neighbors moved in. In fact, the tradition is taken so seriously that erecting the signs has become a stipulation in the sale of some of the homes on the court.

"My Realtor told me that I had to agree to put up one of the signs in my yard as a part of my contract," says Alex Vasquez, who moved onto the court three years ago and displays the 10 lords a-leaping.

One year, Nesbitt dropped out of the tradition, a decision she now regrets. "I lost my three French hens that year," she says.

The display draws crowds of onlookers, and even buses, into the neighborhood each year.

"We always say that this is going to be the last year," says Ruppel, who displays the six geese a-laying and five gold rings. "But we'll get a new neighbor and we'll say we've got to show them what we do every year."

Seeing the lights in Baltimore and beyond

Check out these holiday light displays: Lights on the Bay, Sandy Point State Park, Annapolis. Drive through two miles of an illuminated display, which features more than 70 lighted scenes. Proceeds benefit the Anne Arundel Medical Center. Now through Jan. 1. Hours are 5 p.m.-10 p.m. daily. $12 per car; $50 per bus. Sandy Point State Park, western end of the Bay Bridge, Exit 32 off U.S. 50/301. For more information, call 410-481-3161 or go to aahs.org.

Symphony of Lights, 5950 Symphony Woods Road, Columbia. Symphony Woods, at the Merriweather Post Pavilion, is filled with more than 70 animated and stationary lights and displays. Proceeds benefit the maternal child services of Howard County General Hospital. Open 6 p.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 6 p.m.-11 p.m. Fridays, Saturdays and holidays through Jan. 7. $15 for cars and vans; $25 for commercial vans and minibuses; $100 for buses. For more information, go to hcgh.org or call 410-740-7666.

Winter Lights, Seneca State Park, 11950 Clopper Road, Gaithersburg. On a 3.5- mile stretch, visitors will see 65 animated light displays and more than 380 illuminated vignettes inspired by various themes, including the North Pole and Toy Land. Now through Dec. 31. Hours are 6 p.m.-9 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays, and 6 p.m.-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays. $10 per car Sundays-Thursdays, $12 Fridays-Saturdays; $25 per van; $50 per bus. For more information, call 301-258-6350, ext. 120, or go to gaithersburgmd.gov.

Winter Festival of Lights, Watkins Regional Park, 301 Watkins Park Drive, Upper Marlboro. More than 1 million lights adorn the park. There are lighted trees and scores of holiday displays. Now through Jan. 1. Hours are 5 p.m.-9:30 p.m. daily. $5 per car or van; $15 per minibus or limousine; $25 per bus (donations of canned food for area food shelters accepted at the gate). For more information, call 301-699-2456 or go to pgparks.com.

Garden of Lights, Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallan Ave., Wheaton. Featuring one of the largest lighted attractions in the Mid-Atlantic region, the Garden of Lights showcases an extravagant walk-through display with various lighted themes. Also, check out the live music and lights in the visitors center. Today through Jan. 7, excluding Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Hours are 5:30 p.m.-9 p.m. (Last car admitted at 8:30 p.m.) For more information, call 301-962-1453 or visit brooksidegardens.org.

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