Fun fact: Christmas lights were invented by Thomas Edison in 1880 as a marketing gimmick for his new-fangled incandescent light bulb. Funner fact: Until a manufacturing consortium was established in 1925 and drove prices down, a single string cost the equivalent of $300. Now, they’re so cheap that house decorating has become a competitive sport in some neighborhoods, because America.
These glorious displays of holiday excess come at a different cost, though, as the power required to juice them up produces an estimated 882 pounds of carbon dioxide per home. Families with a conscience should really consider LED bulbs; they save hundreds of dollars in energy costs over time, but – unfun fact – don’t look as warm and inviting as traditional incandescent bulbs. That’s why you’re unlikely to see many of them in these 6 neighborhoods, where December is an excuse to burn fossil fuel like a yule log, because … Christmas America.
Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, NY
A traditionally Italian neighborhood located light years (get it?) from the borough’s hipster epicenter, the Dyker Heights displays have gotten so competitive that a single two-house stretch features 50 motorized mannequins and 2 30-foot tall wooden soldiers. Nearly every house in a square half-mile participates, and there isn’t a single artisanal craftsman or EDM DJ among them.
Peacock Lane, Portland, OR
The residents of Peacock Lane are so serious about their Christmas displays, they don’t just maintain adedicated website – they have a PR rep and they wrote their own Christmas carol. They even staff a free cocoa and cider stand for the city’s coffee snobs to ignore.
Candy Cane Lane, Woodland Hills, CA
Suburban Los Angeles might not seem a likely place for a Christmas wonderland, but it’s lousy with two things: Hollywood lighting and set design folk, and ostentatious displays of money. When those two things combine over the holidays, magic happens.
34th Street, Hampden, Baltimore, MD
Inspired by 2 kids who grew up on the street, bonded over a love of Christmas lights, got married and eventually rallied the neighbors to go all out with their displays every holiday, 34th Street is a 67-year-old tradition. Two things make it feel uniquely Baltimore: the famous hubcap tree at Jim Pollack’s house, and the fact that it might not happen this year because of a crime wave in the area.
Winterhaven, Tucson, AZ
Winterhaven’s Festival Of Lights was started 65 years ago by a developer who thought it might attract residents to his new planned community – he even issued cash rewards for the best display to encourage participation. By the time he realized that simply promoting the weather was a better marketing tactic, the Festival was a tradition, so they kept it.
Smedley Street, Philadelphia, PA
While the “City Of Brotherly Love” is used more these days as a punchline for Philadelphia’s famously grumpy residents, the 2700 block of Smedley Street in South Philly remains a bastion of neighborly good cheer every December. You might still want earmuffs for your kids, though.
Hyatt Extreme Christmas, Fort Lauderdale FL
More of an honorable mention, since it’s just a single home, but the Hyatt family has quite possibly the most Christmas-lit residential structure in the country. It boasts over 200,000 individual lights spread across everything from a ferris wheel to a Santa’s workshop. There’s even a reindeer-ized horse (a real one) and fake falling snow. If you’re looking to step up your family’s Christmas light game, the Hyatts are who you’re stepping to.