December 08, 2023

Photo Essay: Pasadena's Christmas Neighborhood, Lighting Up For 71 Years and Counting

I don't remember how long ago it was that I drove through the Upper Hastings Ranch neighborhood of Pasadena, California looking for Christmas lights—and finding none.
But it's been years and years—and I've kept thinking I need to go back to figure out where they are.

Turns out, I think I was just too early in the season—because at least this year, the official start of the neighborhood Light Up is on Saturday, December 9. 

Although fortunately for me (and my plans to produce a video of it for work), a few houses were ready early this year—including the Rainbow Gingerbread House on Cynthia Avenue, which is fun to see during the day as well as at night.

But it's after 5:30 p.m. that the show really begins, when you can tune your car radio to 88.9 and listen to the program of Christmas music...

...and watch the LED-powered gingerbread people sing along in a dazzling light show. 
There's another gingerbread display nearby, on Hastings Ranch Road (which, like the neighborhood, was named after pioneer Charles Cook Hastings who settled there in the 1880s).

And at the top of Winding Way, the highest house in the ranch is absolutely covered in lights—a display that the homeowner starts putting up in October every year, according to the Upper Hastings Ranch Association HOA (a volunteer-run organization that helps with the Light Up).

The real "star" of the neighborhood is the biggest spectacle of all, Harbeck Lights...

...winner of Season 10 of The Great Christmas Light Fight reality show in 2022, when it came out on top in the "Battle of the Bulbs."

The display this year is very much the same as what audiences saw on the TV show... 

...and includes a 15-minute light show synchronized to a variety of music. 

Between the shows, you can take a selfie in front of the mounted lighted wings, made from recycled plastic water bottles. 

An LED screen is mounted to the roof of the home's garage, which takes center stage in the display...

...and shows a cast of familiar Christmas characters, including Rudolph and Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas.

There's even an entire Star Wars sequence with Darth Vader and a light saber fight.

The colors cycle from blue to red to purple, green, and even fuchsia—in a relentless cacophony of blinking, flashing, strobing, and pulsating to the rhythm.

Here's a video of the 8-bit style segment of the show, set to the tune of "Last Christmas" by Wham! and featuring some Space Invaders, in the player above. It dates back at least to 2021.

And you can view my Instagram reel of the show in the player above as well.

Upper Hastings Ranch has been lighting up the neighborhood in some form or another for 71 years. Although the technology has changed dramatically over the course of that period, there are still many handmade displays and down-home touches—including the signs that line the parkways (the strips between the road and the sidewalk), which vary block by block.

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