Christmas lights

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Every December, we see Raspberry Pi Christmas lighting projects appear on the web, but this year the crop has been bigger and better than ever before. If you haven’t set yours up yet, here are a few ideas, tutorials and displays to get you started.

Let’s open with the Johnson Family’s Dubstep Christmas Show for a look at what can be achieved with a Raspberry Pi and an awful lot of festive elbow grease.

2015 Johnson Family Dubstep Christmas Light Show – Featured on ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight

NEW since 2014: – LED Wreaths replaced with Pixel Wreaths – LED Snow flakes replaced with Pixel Snowflakes – First 3 minutes of 2014 show removed and replaced with new music and sequencing – New effects, more effects, higher-energy/faster paced from beginning to end of show – 100% Pixels!

We think this is the largest and most impressive Pi-based Christmas light show we’ve seen so far: let us know if you’ve seen bigger and better! You can read more about the Johnson’s setup (all controlled by a Pi) at their very detailed webpage about the project. Matt Johnson also has a behind the scenes video for you to goggle at.

Behind the scenes tour of the Johnson Christmas light show

I created this video in response to numerous questions I have received regarding our Christmas Light Show, which you can see at I start off with a basic yard tour of some of the elements, and then get into the details about how it is all put together.

Frankly, the Johnson’s effort is an outlier in its size and complexity. But there are elements of a light show like this that you can make at home and use without scaring the neighbours.

Andrew Oakley has kept his Raspberry Pi Christmas lighting setup compact: one LED matrix displayed in a window. For all that it lacks in size, its ability to play animations and the project’s low price make this a great option.

Raspberry Pi Christmas LED Matrix WS2811

An ultra-cheap low-resolution animated LED matrix, controlled by a Raspberry Pi computer. Uses 96 (12×8) WS2811 addressable LEDs.

Andrew has a really thorough tutorial and build diary (we love Andrew’s write-ups) available at his website, along with the animations he’s made and all the code you need to make your own.

Lights are not just for Christmas. Here’s a giant animated menorah, built by Ben Forta and family for Hanukkah 2015. There’s a full description of how the animation was made in the video.

Our Giant Raspberry Pi Menorah (and How It Was Made)

We built a giant Raspberry Pi powered LED menorah for Chanukah. This is a demo of the full animation sequence, and a description of how it was built.

Don’t want to share your lights with the neighbours? No problem! Here’s Anderson Silva’s Son et Lumiere Christmas tree.

The Silvas Dancing Christmas Tree

This was done with the sample “deck the halls” that comes with the open source LightshowPi project. This entire project was done on a Raspbery Pi B+ and a Sainsmart 8 Channel 5V Solid State Relay Module Board.

Anderson says:

I have 8 channels running 800 lights. I also modified the LightShowPi‘s configuration to customize the lights a bit more. I am running all songs in 4 channels and mirroring the other 4 channels, this (IMHO) makes the lights a little more fun with a lot less ‘blackouts’ from unused channels during certain songs.

You’ll find a very, very thorough step-by-step breakdown of how to build your own, written by Anderson, at Open Source World.

If you need more inspiration, there’s an amazing online community dedicated to LightShowPi at G+, where huge numbers of people using the Raspberry Pi in indoor and outdoor displays swap hints and tips, and showcase their work. (If you’re reading this, G+ community members, a big, flashy hello and merry Christmas to all of you from all of us at Pi Towers!) Head on over for friendly help and advice – and if you’ve made a seasonal display you think we should know about, let us know here in the comments!