Every year I return to the neighborhood where I grew up. As I walk up and down the blocks to the heart of Dyker Heights many memories come back. Some happy, some sad. Overall I still admire the beauty, the seclusion and the sense of continuity that flows through the area. This is especially true when I return at Christmas. As I get closer to the area between 80th to 84 Streets between 11th to 13th Avenues, the entire landscape transforms into an electric Christmas wonderland.
This year the lighting displays were more subdued. There were no animated figures or loud music. The crowds were absent, too. This made this year closer and more intimate for me. Small groups of people, many with children, congregated in front of the mini-mansions for fabulous photo ops. As soon as the flash went off, though, they moved on and as a result the sidewalks were easily navigated.
The mini-mansions looked beautiful and grand this year. What I liked the most was that the smaller houses, similar in size to the one I grew up in, also had a chance to shine with well thought out ornaments, displays and lights. I decided to take pictures of these homes with just a few of the mini-mansions. I hope you enjoy this short tour of the neighborhood where I grew up. In the year ahead you will learn more about Dyker Heights as the story of the lives of my Mom and maternal Grandparents continues to unfold.
The photos I took may be reused freely. A link back to this blog would be a great way to say “Thanks!”
Dyker Heights Christmas Lights 2017
Last night, December 3rd, 2016, I went to see the Christmas Lights display in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, NY. It was damp and chilly. Every so often the wind made the large evergreen trees in front of the mini-mansions sway to and fro. Most of the area is still in the process of setting up their displays. I wasn’t sure how much I’d see but decided to go. I will be involved with several work related events this month so I decided to make the most of my day off.
To my surprise several mini-mansions, as well as the smaller 1 and 2 family houses, already had their displays in place. The most popular themes I saw last night featured Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Bigger homes had their trees and shrubbery adorned with lights so that no figures were necessary. The very big gardens that still featured large displays were big on well known Christmas characters such as The Nutcracker, The Wooden Soldiers, The Little Drummer Boy and Santa.
I hope you’ll enjoy this short tour of the best displays I saw last night. I’m releasing these photos into the public domain. You may circulate or re-use. A link back to this posting would be appreciated.
The Dyker Heights Christmas Lights Display 2016
Every year before Christmas, I make a pilgrimage of sorts to my childhood neighborhood of Dyker Heights. There I see the extravagant, over-the-top display of Christmas lights and decorations that adorn the mini-mansions and homes in this neighborhood. It is also a time that I feel a special message come to me as I walk the streets, absorb the mood, and reflect on the impressions I receive . Each year the experience is completely different.
The first effect of seeing so many softly colored lights against the dark of night is a sense of euphoria. The world is completely different and as I walk closer to the heart of Dyker Heights in the 80 Streets, there is a temporary lapse of all sense of past and future. Every sense is focused on the present moment.
The ordinary becomes extraordinary. Trees that light up the night suddenly seem a possibility.
Even the mini-mansions are transformed into castles where anyone can live like a prince or princess in a happily-ever-after land.
A soft rain was falling after sunset when I walked from Bay Ridge to Dyker Heights on Friday, December 5th, 2014. As much as I tried, there were times when droplets of water were blown by the wind onto the lens of my camera. Yet the photos of the houses glowing in the darkening night came out alright. There was an intensity to the lights the closer I came to 82nd Street near St. Bernadette’s Church. Yet even the more modest displays of lights in the blocks I had previously come from had a beauty all their own. I do not commit to memory which house is on which street whenever I go to view the lights. Instead I let the spirit of the experience guide me first up one block then down another. Sometimes I cross a street, go all along that side, cross to the side I was on before and walk back. The homes and decorations look different each time and I am no longer in this world but a place of happiness in which only the present moment exists. I hope you get a glimpse of this special feeling, too. This corner house on 12th Avenue was the first one to greet me as I entered Dyker Heights. Everything a child associates with the visit of Santa Claus was on display. At this house Santa was bringing the toys, candy canes and gifts by train. This festive display was placed above the garage of one home. This home has a very pretty appeal given by the twinkling lights and the way in which the lanterns glow as the night darkens. These smaller homes gain extra glow by stringing twinkling or colored lights on the shrubbery and Christmas trees in the front garden. When viewed through the close-up lens of a camera the lights on display become even more otherworldly. Here a tree decked out with red twinkling lights appears almost like a galaxy of stars. The light displays become bolder and more brilliant as I neared 12th Avenue and 82nd Street. The mini-mansions are clustered around this area. Their displays are sometimes over the top but the ones I saw this night were well thought out. The figures were all in proportion and there was not the kind of cheapening caused by inflatable plastic figures like I had seen in previous years. Close-up of one of the mini-mansions featured in the previous photo. I do not know what poodles have to do with Christmas but they do look impressive amongst all the trimmings over the doorway and on the trees. This mini-mansion, like many in Dyker Heights, has it’s own fountain. In the summer time some homeowners put up signs stating that the fountain or pond is supplied with water from a well on the property. The decoration which looks like a frozen cascade of water and projects from the fountain created a stunning effect.I wondered if any children lived in these homes and if they would be able to sleep given how enchanting the homes look. I was reminded of fairy stories where children could be led astray and bedazzled by the world of the fey. Here I saw ordinary homes transformed into something more. I think what I saw and felt was a bit of the creative spirit in which the homeowner is expressing themselves and their desire to share this happiness and child-like wonder with neighbors and visitors. I passed by two mini-mansions where Nutcracker and Toy Soldiers kept guard at the entrance. These homes had clusters of tourists and photographers lingering all around. I understood their desire to take it all in. This home preferred little elves in the garden along with garlands around the front pillars. The elves reminded me of the characters Snap, Crackle and Pop from the Kellogg’s Rice Krispies box! This Santa with his reindeer is one of the pretties I’ve seen in Dyker Heights. I think it is the presence of the gazebo and lighted shrubbery that add to the beauty. Also everything is very well proportioned. I am always amazed at the extent to which the homeowners go to create a beautiful scene. On the night I went, some homes were still preparing for the display. There were workmen putting up angels or Christmas trees while others were affixing wreaths to doors and windows. Even without figures the right combination of colors and lights give a home an entirely different aspect as night time deepens. The light display really elevated me to a very special level of awareness when I saw, all of a sudden, these ornaments suspended from the bare branches of a tree. They looked otherworldly in the increasing darkness. I had lost track of time and thought it was best for me to get centered, grounded and ready to go home. The drizzle resumed as the chimes of St. Bernadette’s announced the 6 o’clock hour. I had been in this state of joy for over an hour and walked without thinking towards the Church. I reviewed the photos already taken and was glad that at least one of the nativity scenes had made for a good photo. The rain had ruined a few of the other scenes but this one remained serene and appropriate to the season of Advent which was upon us as we awaited Christmas