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Advertise on the Tentacle

December 2, 2010

Light me up!

Amanda Haddaway

I have a confession to make: I love outdoor Christmas decorations. The lights symbolize the beginning of the holiday season and always bring a smile to my face.


One of my favorite holiday movies is Christmas Vacation, particularly the scene where Clark Griswold installs so many lights on his house that he wipes out the electric grid for his entire neighborhood.


In my opinion, there just can’t be enough lights and lighted figurines in one’s yard. In recent years, I’ve also become a fan of the inflatable holiday creatures.


That is, as long as they are in someone else’s yard.


You see, I prefer a more tasteful approach on my own home with just a small tree or wreath on the front porch, but there’s nothing better than loading up the family in the car, turning on the Christmas carols on the radio and enjoying some hot chocolate as we drive around the neighborhood on our quest of finding the most Griswold-esque display.


Some years we get so silly that we assign Olympic-style ratings to each house. Anything over a 9.5 is top-notch Christmas magic!


My obsession with Christmas decorations started many years ago during my childhood in Thurmont. There was a house near the post office that went all out for Christmas. They had lights; they had plastic figurines and it was a display like none other in the entire town. The sheer number of lights made the whole street brighter during December.


I’m not sure if the same family still lives in that house, but they no longer decorate to the scale that they did when I was a child. I made my husband drive me up there a few years ago in a snow storm to see the lights only to be disappointed that it wasn’t nearly as magical as I had remembered it. Sensing my disappointment, he took me on a field trip to an even more magical place: 34th Street in the Hampden section of Baltimore.


Those of you familiar with Baltimore will know that this is serious “hon” territory. It may not be the North Pole, but it’s close in its level of holiday spirit. For more than 60 years, the neighbors on 34th Street have opened their yards to visitors during the holiday season to marvel at the wonderment of electric enchantment.


There are the usual lights, but this neighborhood takes Christmas decorations to a whole new level. The power lines that cross the street are adorned with multi-colored strands. Some homes boast animated characters preserved behind plexiglas. Electric trains run on tracks affixed to front porch railings. Still others have Maryland-themed displays.


One year, there was a Christmas tree in the front of a home that had crab ornaments, angels created out of Natty Boh beer cans and Old Bay seasoning cans with snow spray-painted on them. Another tree was fashioned out of shiny hubcaps. It may sound tacky, but it’s amazing to see the time and effort that these people put into making their neighborhood a tourist attraction for the holidays.


The area attracts so many people that several street vendors set up shop to offer refreshments for those admiring the festivities. Other than the cost of a warm beverage or a snack, the entire display is open to the public and free of charge. The residents receive no assistance from the electric company on their inflated bills. They do it in the spirit of the holidays and that’s really what Christmas should be all about.


As we all prepare for this year’s holiday celebrations, let me know if there are any holiday light displays I should be visiting. Like I said before, the tackier and more extravagant, the better!


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