Puyallup, WA

Healing and Joy With Holiday Lights

Maria Shimizu Christensen

A small part of the Farwell's front yardPhoto byKari Farwell

There’s a house in Puyallup on a big corner lot that’s overrun with candy canes, snowmen, Christmas decorations, and so many lights that it takes two weeks to put them up. There’s a big red mailbox for letters to Santa, and the property is dripping with icicle lights. And that just barely scratches the surface. It’s a beautiful display made all the more special by the journey of the people who put it up for all to enjoy.

Sage and Kari Farwell go all out every year with their Christmas display, but this year is their biggest yet. Their theme this season is candy canes and snowmen, but dozens of other characters and decorations are lit up, including a basset hound pulling Santa’s sleigh, paying homage to the two real basset hounds that make up the couple’s fur family, along with four cats.

Photo byKari Farwell

They aren’t exactly sure how many light strings they use, but there are at least 3 to 4 strands of 600 to 800 lights in each of several trees, and 12 strands of icicle lights. The truly extraordinary thing about this is that Kari checks each strand for burnt out bulbs before they start the process. That’s thousands of bulbs to inspect and replace, and she does it while dealing with numerous and painful medical issues, but it’s worth it to her to see the smiles on the faces of people driving by.

Putting up holiday lights is a long holiday tradition for the Farwells, who started doing it right after they married. They won a neighborhood competition in 2012, even though they didn’t know it existed. It just gets bigger every year.

Photo byKari Farwell

In 2021, after that year’s display went up, the couple faced some huge challenges. They both came down with Covid, and Kari developed a neurological disorder in addition to the autoimmune disorders she deals with. Then, Sage, who works in law enforcement, faced a sudden life-threatening illness. Instead of the usual year-end ritual of taking everything down, the couple had to rely on the love and generosity of family and friends to pack up their display as they dealt with their new reality. It only took one day, but that day lives in their hearts forever.

The approach of the 2022 holiday season found Sage fully recovered from his illness and Kari stoically shouldering not only her own health burdens, but dealing with the effects of her parents’ Alzheimer's. Creating joy and new memories for themselves and all the families who see their display is very important to the Farwells and one of the things that keeps them going.

Photo byKari Farwell

This year they’re really happy about being physically able to take down their display themselves. And as Sage points out, he loves that they can do it together.

The holiday light display comes down around the 4th or 5th of January, so there’s still time to drive by and check it out. There’s a 9-foot snowman and a nearly 7-foot candy cane, and lights galore. Drive around just up the hill from Good Samaritan Hospital and you can’t miss it. They are very bright lights on dark nights, and they go on at 4:30 pm and stay lit until 12:30 am.

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Author of a Seattle handbook for newcomers, Maria provides news, guides, and tidbits for city dwellers, visitors, and day trippers

Seattle, WA

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