Monday, December 25, 2006

A "New" Subculture: Christmas Light Artists

Last night, a friend introduced me to a new subculture: Christmas Light Artists. For years, my friend's been identifying these artists from newspaper articles listing the "best" Christmas lights, and every holiday season he checks them out. This year, I was invited to tag along.

So at 5:00 p.m., I gathered the requisite tools - my pocket-sized digital camera and a super burrito from my favorite taqueria - and slipped into his car. His tools were much more extensive: a tripod, fancy camera, extra batteries, flashlights, warm clothing, and a GPS system loaded with what looked like hundreds of addresses. Off we went, over the famous Golden Gate Bridge and into Marin County, before stopping at our first destination in a Novato residential area:

Thanks to the brochures set out for visitors, I learned that viewing hours were 6-9 p.m., Dec. 22-25, and that the owner used 70,000 lights, it took him a month (fulltime?) to put them up, and his electric bill shot up an extra $1,000. As we were leaving, the owner was up on the roof getting ready to turn on his snow-making machines to entertain the crowd of children at the gate. A horse-drawn carriage stopped across the street to give the Christmas decoration aficionados seated within a peek at the 'snow.'

While the rest of the houses we visited did not top the first, each was unique in its own way. Notable sights include ...

Santa driving through the neighborhood on his gleaming red motorcycle, handing out candy canes to the kids. Though I was impressed, not all the children were as I heard one little girl ask Santa, "Where are my gifts?"

Notice the neon, “Open” sign below? These homeowners had a throng of people waiting in line to go inside the house to view each uniquely decorated room. I’m wondering how many visitors, upon exiting, added a contribution to the “Donations Accepted” box posted near the fence.

Since they decorated countless yards we visited, I’m guessing that giant snow globes are 'in' this year. Hard to believe that all we had were manger scenes and Christmas lights when I was growing up.

This San Rafael residence paid tribute to Disney and Mickey Mouse. Each garage had been converted to a Disney room, while the upstairs windows had similar displays.

Not one for clashing colors or a mishmash of reindeers, Santas, and Wise Men, owners of this Castro Street residence in San Francisco added a touch of elegance to their decorations:

When the last Christmas light was seen at 10:40 p.m., both my batteries and my camera’s were nearly dead and the cold weather had me shivering. But it was worth it and I thank my friend for the fun night and a glimpse into a side of Christmas I didn’t know existed.

Is it just me or are there others out there, clueless about the existence of those who view Christmas decorations as an art form?


At 8:10 AM, Anonymous Michelle said...

Rachelle, I just discovered the same thing this Christmas myself. My husband and the kids and I did a drive around, and it was amazing the trouble people went to with their lights.

At 3:43 PM, Blogger Calista Fox said...

Come visit me next year at Country Club Central. They blow fuses in my neighborhood with the vast amout of wattage being used. Clark Griswall has got nothin' on my neighbors!

Calista From the Christmas Village
(who wore shades every night in Dec. for good reason)

At 7:42 AM, Blogger Rachelle Chase said...

Well, I'm glad I'm not the only one, Michelle. It is amazing, isn't it?

Wow, Calista. I guess I know where to go next year for the light display. And here I was thinking the shades every night was for an entirely different reason. :-)


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