New York may well be known for its glittering cityscape but it’s a small neighbourhood in Brooklyn that has, increasingly, taken on the skyscrapers of Manhattan for the brightest lights. Christmas lights have long been a familiar sight in cities around the world. Stores deck their facades with a dazzling array of lights and set up beautiful scenes in store windows to entice shoppers in. Homeowners, the world over, also choose to show their festive side by covering their houses in fairy lights, inflatable characters and nativity scenes.
Several decades ago, a single homeowner decided to display some Christmas angels in her front garden in a neighbourhood called Dyker Heights. From that small and, with the neighbours, unpopular beginning the idea of over the top Christmas displays has taken the area by storm. Year after year, the number of houses joining in this festive tradition increases, as does the complexity of the displays and, needless to say, the electricity bills. The instigator of this tradition still decorates her property, though now the display has truly gone to the next level of glitz. Not satisfied with just a handful of angels, hers is one of the most elaborate with a vast array of Christmas characters!
Dyker heights is a traditionally Catholic and rather wealthy region but, aside from that, there is little to explain why this has really caught the imagination of the residents. It has certainly become a tourist attraction and a profitable business for a few clever entrepreneurs who will charge thousands to go round and meticulously decorate your garden and house for you. The process starts in September as wrapping thousands of tiny lights around trees isn’t an overnight occupation. Presumably, removal will also keep the companies busy until about March! Business is clearly doing well as many of these companies are local to the affluent region and, needless to say, the business owner will have the biggest and wildest display.
Bus and walking tours can be arranged to take in all the glory the spectacle has to offer. Note that the area is quite a way off the beaten track – taking an R train out to 86th street in Brooklyn followed by either a bus ride or straight forward 15 minutes walk. It’s certainly possible to guide yourself, though you might want to do some good prep work first in order to find the best (most outrageous) properties… The bus tours seemed, to me at least, rather expensive (currently around $50 for an adult) and some of the most impressive streets aren’t open to traffic. The walking tours are reasonable at around $15 and have the advantage of a guide to fill in all the information on the subject. Both usually meet at Union square.
While Dyker Heights may lack some of the New York “cool” it certainly doesn’t struggle with getting itself noticed. This area is increasingly becoming a must see tourist attraction around Christmas time even with foreign visitors. As for putting you in the spirit? When you go to Dyker Heights it certainly is “beginning to look a lot like Christmas”!