December 21, 2014

Photo Essay: Lighting Up the Streets for Christmas

I remember the year my father vowed to never light the house for Christmas again. He'd caught one too many teenagers standing on our front porch with light bulbs clutched in their mittened hands, those big bulbs painted in a rainbow of colors that would get so hot to touch. Disillusioned with kids these days, he refused to light up the corner of Plymouth Drive and Sunnycrest ever again – at least from the outside.

My sister and I were heartbroken because we always loved those lights, and the big plastic snowman and nativity scene that used to glow from inside the attic windows.

At least we still had the tree, though our mother threatened to take it away from us year after year, phobic of the mess it made and what creatures might've stowed away in its branches.

It's funny how, even at 39 years old, I'm still trying to make up for these childhood losses.

Until I have a house of my own, I must satisfy myself with the Christmas lights in the suburban sprawl of LA, like at Norton's Winter Wonderland in Burbank. Wowee. This is not my father's light display.

You can find lovely decorations sporadically in other adjacent cities like Pasadena, but there are two districts that are notorious for their Christmas light displays: Sleepy Hollow in Torrance, and Candy Cane Lane in Woodland Hills.

Sleepy Hollow is the larger and more impressive of the two, incorporating several intersecting, winding streets that are somewhat uniformly decorated with lights strung from the trees, though each house finds their own way to stand out.

Candy Cane Lane, on the other hand, is basically one stretch of road, and many of its houses decorate their lawns with painted wooden set pieces rather than glorious light displays. There are a few highlights, but it just can't compare to Sleepy Hollow, or to Dyker Heights in Brooklyn. I know, I've been spoiled.

I don't know what motivates these homeowners to put so much time, effort and money in for the enjoyment of others (it's like you have to sign a contract agreeing to decorate in order to live there), but I sure do admire their work, and appreciate getting some Christmas spirit while I'm out here on my own, at times with nothing to do but look at some Christmas lights.

And it's not just one house, but a whole bunch of houses – and some feeling of community and togetherness, even if it's only once a year...

For more Christmas lights and celebrations around LA, click here.

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