EPISODE 305 There's a special kind of magic to Christmas in New York City, from that colossal Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center to the fanciful holiday displays in department store windows.
But in the past three decades, a new holiday tradition has grown in popularity and in a surprising quarter -- the quiet residential neighborhood of Dyker Heights in Brooklyn.
Every December many residents of this area of southwestern Brooklyn ornament their homes in a wild and brilliant parade of Christmas lights and decorations -- from gigantic animatronic Santas to armies of toy soldiers. This electrical spectacle draws thousands of tourists a year, attracted to this imaginative (and often mind-blowing) display of Christmas spirit.
In this episode, we look at the lights of Dyker Heights from a few angles. First we explore the history of Christmas lighting in New York City and how such displays, at first mere promotional uses of Edison lighting, brought Christmas into the secular public sphere.
Then we look at the history of Dyker Heights, tracing back to one of the first Dutch settlements and a neighborhood which has developed into a stable Italian community.
Finally, we send our researcher and producer Julia Press on an excursion into Dyker Heights to reveal the origin of the Christmas display extravaganza. Featuring an interview with one of the residents who started it all!
A big thank you to Lucy Spata and Tony Muia of A Slice of Brooklyn Bus Tours for allowing us to record at the synagogue. And of course thanks to Julia Press for contributing to this show and helping up over the past few months. Please check out her website for more links to her past work.
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