Eight miles from Manhattans tourist mainstays, a neighborhoods over-the-top Christmas displays have drawn visitors from around the world

If you’re a big fan of the American winter holiday season, you’ve probably heard of Dyker Heights. The neighborhood in Brooklyn has been featured on travel shows and influencer Instagram accounts from around the world for its charmingly over-the-top display of Christmas lights and decorations.

One yard has over 60 inflatable figures around the house. Another has a 15ft-tall Santa in the front door. The lights from block to block are blinding – there is no such thing as darkness during Christmas in Dyker Heights until the homes start shutting off their lights around midnight. An estimated 100,000 people come to visit every year.

The tradition is said to have started with a woman named Lucy Spata in 1986. Spata started to decorate her home in Dyker Heights in honor of her mother. She started by putting out glowing angel figurines in her front yard, and the collection grew each year – as did the number of neighbors joining in.


Although locals insist there’s no competition among neighbors, some families go so far as to hire professional decorating companies.

James Bonavita, the owner of B&R Christmas Decorators, has been serving families in Dyker Heights for 27 years, and decorates his own home in the area too. It’s showered in green lights, looking as if it lies in an enchanted forest. Tall, glowing toy bears stand in the front yard. The display takes him nine days.

“I’ve always loved Christmas, I love to decorate,” he says. “I make sure everything looks like my house, like how I want to do it… I make sure everything is done perfectly.”

The Dyker Heights Christmas extravaganza draws so much attention that the New York police department deploys officers for crowd control. Spata’s house has become so popular that the police often have to draw out yellow “please do not cross” tape where the sidewalk in front of her house ends, just so the crowds don’t spill out on to the street.



It wasn’t always like this in Dyker Heights. Situated eight miles from Manhattan, the neighborhood is a trek from the heart of tourist activities. And while Rockefeller Center and the window displays that line Fifth Avenue are just steps from each other, the closest subway stations connecting Dyker Heights to Manhattan are a mile away from the neon heart of the action.

But for local families in Brooklyn, Dyker Heights is far from being a secret: it’s part of many family traditions.

Growing up, “we never went to Rockefeller Center. We’d get in the car, we’d come to Dyker, and that was part of the Christmas tradition,” says Tony Muia, a long-time resident of a nearby neighborhood.

Muia now owns and operates A Slice of Brooklyn tour bus company that takes tourists from Manhattan to Brooklyn to taste the borough’s famous pizza and, of course, see its Christmas lights during the holiday season. Its Christmas-time slogan is “Rockefeller Center? Fuhgeddaboudit”, a nod to the Brooklyn accent of many locals, including Muia.


Dyker Heights has historically been an Italian American enclave. There are many manger figurines set up in yards in Dyker Heights, but you won’t find any models of baby Jesus out until 25 December at midnight – the Italian American tradition has it so baby J does not appear until the day celebrated as his birthday.

The notably exuberant culture of Italian Americans is a testament to why so many families in the neighborhood go all-out for Christmas, Muia says. “It’s really just an expression of one of the most joyous times in the Catholic religion, and that’s really what it boils down to. Everyone gets in on the act. It’s just a joyous time of year.”

As news of Dyker Heights spread, more people kept coming. It’s common to walk around Dyker Heights in December and hear multiple foreign languages spoken by tourists from other parts of the city – and the world – seeing the lights.

Read more: www.theguardian.com