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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