If you’ve only heard of the Christmas lights of Dyker Heights, it’s pretty easy to be dismissive. Home Christmas displays are sort of like the scars conversation from Jaws: everyone thinks they’ve got the one that tops them all. Dyker Heights’ Christmas lights has a reputation: a Yelp page, a Facebook page, a whole tour devoted to it. And despite my initial skepticism, once I got to 12th Avenue by 84th Street, I understood that moment when weary pilgrims finally reach Mecca.
These are not ordinary Christmas light displays, not even close. Houses with strings of lights and deer statues wrapped in string lights as if they were involved in bondage-torture Christmas porn, another house with a host of angels forming a corridor along the entrance to the house, along with an animatronic Santa, with whom people can take pictures. Even locals were getting in on the act, with a man in an Elmo suit stopping cars to ask for donations to the local church
There were a lot of cars touring around, but I’d recommend getting there on your own steam (or parking nearby if you have a car), dressing warmly, and bringing a thermos of cider/hot chocolate/hot toddy. Rubbernecking at decorations while driving slowly around pedestrians does not a festive holiday make.
The house, you see above was raising money for children with special needs. It had gone for an entire inflatable display: an explosion of inflatable carousels, Spongebob, Tigger, the Grinch, Avengers on the roof with a gigantic Rudolph, Snoopy in his airplane, and a festooned Darth Vader (because even the Dark Side has some holiday spirit).
The sheer opulence and extravagance of the properties, the unique taste of the owners, and their willingness to outsource something as traditionally self-identifying as decorating one’s own house to a contractor all combine to form the perfect conditions of over-the-top, soul-crawling scale-defying celebration that will consume us all in its brilliance as it draws from all of our natural resources to survive, like a giant winter solstice succubus.
It behooves you to visit Dyker Heights, if only to marvel at what excess really looks like. What makes that neighborhood so special is that it is perfectly tailored for such a display. What else would you expect from an area with nigh-mansions boasting solariums, gazebos, greenhouses, statues of chimera in the front yard, and waterfalls/fountains all year long? It’s like how the Earth is that perfect planet of conditions that can support carbon-based life. Just close enough to the Sun to be warm enough, but not close enough that we instantly ignite, and with a special concoction elements to form a sustainable atmosphere.
Photography by Camille Lawhead