If You Don’t Like It…Move, AKA Christmas Lights in Brooklyn

If Rockefeller Center is the dignified grand dame of Christmas in New York City, then Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, is the ostentatious Uncle Luigi who pinches all the girls’ cheeks and drinks too much mulled wine at Christmas dinner. That’s the way we roll in Brooklyn.

It started 25 years ago with this house. Lucy Spata and her family decorate every inch of their home with nutcrackers, toy soldiers and a Santa so big there is no way he is fitting down the chimney. There are about 30,000 lights keeping Santa aglow. Lucy’s mother was a “fanatic” about Christmas, and “so some of it is her stuff to keep her memory alive.” For the neighbors who think it’s too much? “Move,” says Lucy.

Dyker Heights Christmas

Most of the neighbors seem to have cultivated an attitude of ‘if you can’t beat `em, join `em.’ Florence Polizzotto’s display includes a motorized quartet of 10-foot tall dancers that pirouette to the music of the Nutcracker Suite.

In fact, some folks take the whole decorating business so seriously that they hire professionals to make sure they are keeping up with the Spatas.

Over the course of the season, an estimated 150,000 visitors file by the houses, all located within about 3 blocks. This neighborhood of Dyker Heights, originally settled by the Dutch, was developed in the late 1800s as Brooklyn’s first exclusive planned community. Walter Johnson, the developer, required that each plot of land be no smaller than 60 ft. by 100 ft. and each home had to cost a minimum of $4,000. (Today these homes are worth millions.) Dyker Heights had two things going for it:  the area has panoramic sea views and it is close to lower Manhattan. The Wall Street Journal recommended it for “the busy man of Wall Street.”

image via Wikipedia

Little did those stuffy Wall Street types know that this would happen.
And this…
And this:
And let’s not forget this…
After the original Dutch and Anglican settlers moved on in the 1930s, the Italian immigrants moved in. The neighborhood has been an Italian-American stronghold ever since with about 69 percent of residents of Italian heritage. (Word has it that Scott Baio is from the nabe, though I’m not sure that’s a claim to fame.) Of the 150 homes that Walter Johnson built, about half remain.
But at Christmastime, the neighbors have their own way of decorating. Some folks like to say it with inflatables.
 Some like to say it with animatronics.
Some like to say it in lights.

And some just say it.

Travel Channel host Samantha Brown takes a tour of Dyker Heights, Christmas 2009. (First two minutes of the clip.)

Do any houses do some over the top holiday decorations in your area? 

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31 comments

    1. I understand, Lisa. When I lived in Florida, it was much the same way. For some reason wearing shorts and sweating on Christmas day takes a bit of the ambiance out of the experience.

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    1. I was thinking the same thing, Kathy! What their electric bills must be! I don’t think there are any CFL bulbs happening here. 🙂
      Thanks for letting me know about the Shine post. I’ll check on that and see what happened.

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  1. Pretty spectacular – I don’t think I’ve ever come across something quite like this!
    I don’t think I’d want to be the one hanging off a ladder for two weeks, though. And I wonder where they keep all the ‘stuff’ in the off season?
    🙂

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    1. So funny you mention that – I read that Lucy Spata, the owner of the house in the first photo with the giant Santa out front, has to keep all of the decorations at a storage facility and then have it brought to her house in a big truck!

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    1. Oh, yes! It’s quite a sight. People generally walk through the neighborhood since most of the houses with the lights are concentrated within about 3 blocks, but there are even traffic jams from the drivers trying to get a peek.

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    1. I’ll say this is pretty unusual here too. But over the years it’s taken on a life of its own and people come from all over Brooklyn to check it out.

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    1. I think you would get some great shots of these homes, Carole. They are so pretty (sans lights) and stately. A good number of the original homes from the early 1900s are still standing. It’s one of the few neighborhoods in Brooklyn with large, stand-alone homes – most of the homes here are attached in row houses or brownstones.

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    1. I can only imagine the electric bills, Judith!
      Do your neighbors post any outdoor decorations at all, or do people focus on decorating inside the home for Christmas?

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  2. Wow, Jacquelin! Some people have more money than brains…

    We have a man here who decorates his property extensively, and then takes any donations offered and gives them to the local food bank…that’s my kind of decorating!

    Wendy

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    1. I will give them that, Wendy. I noticed several houses collecting donations for charity. One, in particular, I remember was the Make A Wish Foundation. At least some better good is coming of it! 🙂

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  3. As a huge fan of Christmas lights, I loved your post! My neighbourhood only has a few over-the-top houses this year, so it’s great to see some pictures of light-draped houses on your blog! Thanks for sharing the history as well.

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    1. It does bring so much festivity to streets. I swear that the lights are so bright you could see them from space. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Carrie!

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  4. Great pics. There is a street here in Auckland where everyone decorates their house. It’s like you wouldn’t move there unless you planned to decorate in a big way. Otherwise, because it’s summer down here, you don’t see a lot of decorating.

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    1. Thanks, Thomas! When I lived in Florida it felt like it was summer at Christmas time. 😛 Some houses put white blankets on their lawns to simulate snow. How’s that for “dreaming of a white Christmas?”

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