In New York for Christmas and thinking about visiting the Christmas lights at Rockefeller Center? Fuhgettaboudit. In New York City, the spectacle you need to see are the Christmas lights in Brooklyn.
Our guide, Marc, from A Slice of Brooklyn showed us a side of Brooklyn that I had never seen and that enthralled my children. We visited three neighbourhoods in Brooklyn but the most amazing was Dyker Heights which is completely over the top for the month of December.
Tasteful? Depends on what your definition of tasteful is. Sometimes I felt like I was in a Real Housewives of New Jersey episode. As Marc pointed out, this tour really does bring out all the stereotypes.
Christmas Lights in Brooklyn
Not everywhere in Brooklyn goes crazy for Christmas lights. You need to head out to the old Italian neighbourhoods which are places not easily accessible by public transportation.
Blue Christmas House
Bay Ridge has multi-million dollar homes facing the waterfront. Many of the lighting decorations are tastefully done. Our favourite has to be the Blue Christmas house. The husband is Italian-Catholic, his wife Jewish and they compromised on blue lights. (Blue and white are the colours traditionally associated with the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah). And, is this house ever blue!
At Blue Christmas house, you can just about also make out the Christmas tree which is hung upside down. An upside down tree makes a more significant triangle which is supposed to signify the Christian Trinity. Even with a drop-free needles tree, I bet that tree sheds a lot.
I wonder if this is where Galeries Lafayette in Paris got their idea of an upside down Christmas tree for their store last year.
Sammy the Greek
Sammy the Greek has a house that is Vegas meets Brooklyn. And, he’s Greek, in case you missed the Greek flag, or the Greek words spelling out Merry Christmas on the front. Note the cultural diversity in a predominantly Italian neighbourhood. Sammy’s got his own radio station which plays Christmas tunes coordinated with his light show.
He’s also got a Christmas village set up in a protective glass case on the front lawn. We noticed other people did too, but maybe not to Sammy’s scale. At least now I know who buys those Christmas village things.
Lucy Spata’s House
The grandmama of the Christmas lights tradition is Lucy Spata’s house. Lucy put up 40 angels to commemorate the passing of her mother in the 1980’s. The neighbours were sympathetic at first, but then they started complaining.
With true Brooklyn attitude, Lucy told them to stick their complaints where the sun don’t shine. The neighbours called the cops on her.
Then it was WAR. Not Sopranos style but the Christmas edition. But like in the Godfather movies, I’m sure it involved lots of tasty pasta sauce. Lucy hired carol singers for her front lawn. The neighbours decided the lights may be bright but at least they were quiet.
And, lo, unto them, a tradition was born.
Christmas Lights in Brooklyn Photo Gallery
Eventually, more and more of Dyker Heights got into Lucy Spata’s Christmas spirit. Here are some of my favourite sights.
B&R are professional Christmas lights decorators. So, of course, their family house looked amazing.
People may have their houses go dark during Christmas if there has been a death in the family. Or, they may choose to commemorate their family member (even the four legged kind).
What price Christmas festive lights you may ask? One man has admitted his December electricity bill comes in at $5000. Yowza.
Taking the Christmas Lights Tour
I’d never seen these lights before because you really need private transport to get to these neighbourhoods. Our Slice of Brooklyn tour bus left from the very convenient Union Square. Taking about 3.5 hours total, it was fun, easy and hassle-free.
Our guide Marc was terrific – amusing with the right amount of respect. After all, he’s from Brooklyn and will need to show his face in the ‘hood. It’s a small family-run operation expertly run by another Brooklyn native son, Tony Muia, for the last 10 years.
A Slice of Brooklyn takes about 90,000 visitors a year to see the non-trendy, authentic side of Brooklyn that exists outside of hipsters, Williamsburg and Girls. Tickets for the tours are $50/adult and $40/children. Our tour bus was full so you really need to book in advance.
We received complimentary tickets from A Slice of Brooklyn. All words and opinions are strictly my own. And, yes, I would pay to do this tour again.