The One with All the Christmas Lights

Instead of shopping on “black Friday,” I’ll be taking in the sights and sounds of the season right here in Brooklyn. Come along with me to the neighborhood of Dyker Heights. Bet your neighbors don’t do Christmas like this…

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 dinner. That’s the way we roll in Brooklyn.

It started twenty-five 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’s 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 ten-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 three 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.”

Dyker Heights now and then. 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 should be a claim to fame.) Of the 150 homes that Walter Johnson built, about half remain.
But at Christmastime, each family carries on its own tradition 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.)

How do your neighbors decorate for Christmas? 

Have a great weekend, everyone! 

This post was inspired by the Weekly Photo Challenge: Let There Be Light.

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47 comments

  1. Whoa! So far, we are the only house on our street that has any lights at all. We have a string of them along our roof and a few trees decorated. Pretty mild compared to the above photos. I love lights so much, it’s my favorite thing to see decorations. L.L. Bean’s flagship store in Freeport has a gigantic tree and all these amazing lights all over the town, I can’t wait to go see them next week.

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  2. Wow, Jackie, that’s pretty amazing! I’m wondering about the electric bills! Now that we’ve seen this holiday extravaganza, I want to know how YOU are decorating by comparison.

    Hope you had a great Thanksgiving, my friend.

    Hugs from Ecuador,
    Kathy

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    1. I couldn’t help but think of the electric bills myself. Some of these displays must cost thousands of dollars for the month of December.

      Thanksgiving was wonderful. Hope Ralph and Lucy got a turkey snack! 🙂

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  3. Wow! We have an expression in our family at the holiday time for houses with a lot of lights: “overboard house,” and these take the meaning to a whole new level. I am trying to imagine living next door (or worse, across the street) from such a house. Too much light to sleep, too much traffic for a peaceful evening. Amazing to see, though! I think I’ll stick with the icicle lights we hang from our porch. Maybe others call ours “the underboard house.” (p.s. I love the mailbox, very cute, and maybe I’ll do that!)

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    1. Ha! This is an “overboard neighborhood!” I’m glad I don’t live in this neighborhood, but I can stop by and appreciate the creativity. You should see the Nutcracker Suite display where the characters pirouette to the ballet. On ice. 🙂

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  4. Cool post! I LOVE when cities get all lit up for Christmas, it makes everything so much fun, and these look absolutely amazing. There’s a neighborhood like that near my house in California but I don’t remember the name right now, I’m afraid.

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  5. Love amazing lights! I don’t think we do it right in England. There’s a house near me that has Santa doing something different each year, like the year David Blaine was suspended in a glass box above London, so was Santa. Poor effort compared to these pictures though!

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  6. I live in the very Jewish Upper West Side so the predominant lights in my neighborhood are traffic lights. When I visit my family in California for Christmas, there are houses in San Rafael (the North Bay Area) where the home owners go decorating wild. One of those houses happened to be my sister’s former next door neighbor. She is SO THANKFUL that she sold her house before he drank the Kool-Aid that brings on decorating lunacy and as Kathy has pointed out, sky high electric bills. Excellent post and great pictures!

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      1. Man I thought I was in the spirit this year. My snowman, baked sugar cookies, went to a Christmas festival. But not up to NY standards!

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