"Shepherd" of around 200 illuminated animals

Photo: Ernst Häusler’s Christmas lights in Unteraegeri extend over about 2,000 square metres, from his house to the lake.
It all started very small, when Ernst Häusler first decorated his house at Wilbrunnenstrasse 110 in Unterägeri with fairy lights and stars 20 years ago. Additional elements – illuminated reindeer, Santa Claus’ and polar bears - were added year for year. Häusler, also known in the area as "Baschi", today claims to own the largest private Christmas lights in Central Switzerland, and it’s quite possible that he’s right. The installation, which stretches from his family home to the lake, is impressive: it consists of around 200 animals on an area of ​​2,000 square metres, and can be seen from far away.
Setting up the entire lighting is a mammoth task, adds Häusler, who is the owner of Häusler Immobilien und Verwaltungs AG in the village. It takes "ten men and six hours" to anchor the figures and set them all upright. The father of two gets help from his son Nick and friends. After the work, he offers his helpers a lunch, in which a good drop of wine is not missing. "The electricians then need three days to connect all the elements to the electricity." Häusler's ‘art work’ is in operation from 1 December to 6 January, from 5 pm to 10 pm.
He gained the taste for this from a friend 30 years ago, on a trip to the USA. "There’s a big street In Los Angeles that is decorated for Christmas … and how!" he says and laughs. "But they are real nutcases there." He doesn’t deny it that he’s also a bit crazy. He often looks out of the window in the evening, switches off the light in the living room of his house, and simply lets the countless lights work on him. "It just makes you happy, especially when it's snowing." His wife Hilda shares his passion – she doesn’t have any other choice, he jokes.
The collector is always on the lookout for new characters throughout the year. He used to buy them in a shop in Zurich, but it has now closed, he reports. "There are fewer and fewer shops that specialise in this. The goods often come from abroad." But Häusler has the right connections - he got to know new salesmen at a fair in Zurich, and buys some figures in wholesale markets such as Jumbo or Landi. "You will always find something."
Storage has become a problem over time, however. After all, all the figures have to be stored away for eleven months. Fortunately, he has a 200-square-metre storage room in his shop at Gewerbestrasse 6 in Unterägeri, where the lighting is now stored.
He asserts that the neighbours and walkers enjoy his garden. "99 percent of the feedback is positive." But he has also heard that someone complained to the council about his high power consumption. But that doesn’t bother this Christmas fan: "The whole thing doesn’t need that much power," he adds. Häusler now hopes for a real snowfall - so that his display will look even better over the Christmas holidays.