True Christmas Spirit Shines Bright on Franklin Road

No strings attached, it’s simply an untethered sense of Christmas and a ton of unbridled community spirit.

Since 1993 the Franklin Road community have decorated their properties with lights creating a Christmas event that extends the spirit of kindness beyond their front doors. In a time when anonymous apartment living and gated communities are becoming more common, the Franklin Road Lights goes against the trend and is an iconic and enduring part of Auckland’s Christmas landscape.

Today it is one of the few truly free, non-commercial events that Auckland families and friends can enjoy without feeling the pressures of spending money. “It’s our gift to the community and it’s accessible to everyone; it’s one event everyone can bring their kids to without worrying about having to buy something,” says Ross Thorby, the man who started the project. Earlier this year ‘Roscoe’, as he is affectionately known, was awarded a QSM for his contribution to the community and can’t believe that such a simple gesture all those years ago grew to be what it is today.

Ross believes the reason Franklin Road Christmas Lights is so special is because he and his neighbours do it simply because they want to do something wonderful at Christmas. “No one has to put up lights, no one is paid to put up lights, everyone does it as a genuine gift to the community because they really want to,” says Ross.

Over the years Ross and his neighbours have avoided the constant pressures of commercialisation, discouraging any organisation trying to exploit the event for profit or promotional purposes. “It’s really important to us that businesses, and even charities don’t take over and make it something it’s not. We all give this beautiful experience without wanting anything in return,” explains Ross.

Jacqui Dixon, owner of Sabato, moved into Franklin Road about five years ago and agrees. “We’re really lucky to be part of something beautiful. When you see the looks on children’s faces as they walk up and down Franklin Road in their dressing gowns it’s truly heartwarming. You are literally giving joy,”
says Jacqui.

Jacqui acknowledges that the first Christmas can be bit daunting as a new resident to the street but everyone is really welcoming and helpful. While a lot of work goes into some of the lighting displays, others are more simple but they are all done with same sense of giving. “Every decorated house is equally special and wonderful regardless of the size of the display.”

“Every year we choose a different celebrity to turn on the lights. The first was Dame Cath Tizard and since then we’ve had the RT Honorable, Helen Clark, actor Karl Urban, the infamous Buckwheat and Testicles, Academy Award winner Ngila Dickson, Dave Dobbyn, and Her Excellency The RT Honorable Patsy Reedy" says Ross.

“Everyone we have ever asked has been delighted to take part and no one has ever declined, which I think speaks volumes for the event,” says Ross. Every year the details of who will turn the lights is kept secret, but Ross promises that this year will be pretty special. A lovingly restored grand villa at Number 38 Franklin Road is this location for this years event and sausage sizzle and will be the perfect location for a festive start to the Christmas lights season. (ANDREA KAHUKIWA)