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'Mr Christmas' turns his home into a winter wonderland with 25,000 lights for charity

‘Mr Christmas’ Mark Abbott spent time in a homeless hostel more than 15 years ago. Now he gives back by turning his home into a winter wonderland for charity

Mark Abbott's Christmas lights

Mark Abbott Lights up his Norwich home for the festive season. Photo: Mark Abbott

Rising energy bills might put some households off decking the halls with Christmas lights this year – but not ‘Mr Christmas’, Mark Abbott, who has covered his home in 25,000 lights for charity. 

For the last nine years, the dad of three has turned his home into a winter wonderland to raise funds for local homelessness charity St Martins in his native Norwich – the hostel that helped him when he was homeless. Last year Abbott hung 17,500 lights on his home, and has upped the number of decorations this year after refusing to let rising energy bills ruin his plans.

“If people don’t do lights because of the energy prices then we’re going to miss out. I want to give back to the community and if I can do that by putting up 20-odd thousand lights then I will,” says Abbott. 

“The response was something else last year. I really upped the game, and we raised just short of £1,800, which is amazing. I was approached in the summer holidays by three or four people asking me if I was going to be doing it this year. I can’t not put lights up. People tell me I’m doing a great thing. I think people really need it this year. People need it more than ever.” 

Abbott’s home will become a local landmark in Norwich when he has his big switch-on come December 4. 

Mark Abbott, 'Mr Christmas'
‘Mr Christmas’ Mark Abbott believes people need cheering up this year more than ever. Photo: Mark Abbott

In the lead-up to the big day, Abbott even brings in a cherry picker to hang lights on the roof. As well as the lights, Christmas-mad Abbott brings ‘Santa’s sleigh’ to his front garden – which can seat four children – along with a snow machine to ensure that there is festive weather. The snow machine is turned on every time someone donates to charity, and Abbott said last year he went through 15 litres of snow machine fluid as families flocked to his home. 

He told The Big Issue he’s looking for a sponsor to help him foot the increased energy bill, but is yet to estimate how much extra he’ll be forking out on electricity. The government’s energy price guarantee means the bill for a typical household should be around £2,500 until April 2023. That dwarfs Ofgem’s £1,277 energy price cap from last Christmas, with Abbott’s festive fun set to rack up a hefty bill. But it has not deterred him from going bigger and better this year. 

“I’m constantly looking at ways to improve things,” says Abbott. “I mean, who’s going to miss out if I don’t do it?  

“I do it for my children, it makes their Christmas and people are so wowed by the lights that they donate. One of my kids, who’s seven, tells people that the money is not for us, it’s for people who sit on the street and have no food. Hearing her talk like that makes me cry. If there is anyone out on the street, she goes over to talk to them to say, ‘We try and raise money for you guys to get whatever help you need at Christmas time’.” 

As well as St Martins, Abbott is also fundraising to support mental health charity Mind this year.

Head to christmaswhitehouse.co.uk to donate to Abbott’s fundraiser

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income. To support our work buy a copy! If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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