The Home Guru: Outside Holiday Lights Bring Out the "Kid" in All of Us

Outside lighting during the holiday season brings out the "kid" in all of us. Now, landscaping and lighting companies have gotten into the business of helping homeowners and businesses do the job.


When I noticed that Patch this year has invited readers to enter a holiday decorating contest, I was reminded that there is a little “kid” in all of us about bright and sparkling light decorations both inside and outside the home during the holiday season.

Among all the holidays of my life, the one I remember most vividly is Christmas when I was seven years old, living in a row home in Philadelphia. That was the year my parents suggested that I might have a holiday party and invite the neighborhood kids in to see our gigantic tree, decorated to the nines with hundreds of balls and demonstrating our family’s specialty skill with hanging lead tinsel so precisely on each branch that it created a cascading effect of a frozen waterfall.

But that lead tinsel was outlawed in 1972 at the suggestion of the FDA, claiming that the lead posed a threat to children.

My particular delight was that at our tree’s base was an oval track where a Lionel train, originally my dad’s from the 1930s, chugged along with a clatter that I can still hear in my head. My brother Bobby, six years older than I, to whom Dad’s set was given, allowed me to lie to my friends and say the train set was mine rather than his, and that I could operate it myself as long he was present to supervise.

My preeminence for holiday decoration and wonder was short-lived, however, when my arch enemy who lived next door, Joey Delayo, announced that his dad was decorating his front porch with strings of colored lights and we were all invited to come see it that evening. Christmas decoration outside, I wondered? I had never seen it.

Sure enough, later that evening, Joey’s dad flipped the switch on what seemed to be endless strings of lights on the porch, illuminating the brick facades of the entire block.  And Joey beamed as his mom handed out candy canes to all the kids who came to see the only outdoor display on the block. God, I hated that kid.

When I asked my dad if we could also decorate outside for Christmas, he said it was a waste of time and money.  “Why decorate for the neighbors?” I remember him saying. 

Today, more and more homeowners want to decorate for the neighbors and whenever I see a home with its lawn highly decked out for the holidays, I get the urge to pull up, knock on the door and meet the owner. I’m sure that he (somehow I suspect that in 99 percent of the cases it would be a man who does this chore) would be great guy who loves kids and probably is still wondrous as a child himself.

In my neighborhood in Yorktown Heights, the most talked about home every Halloween is owned by Domenic Pizzarello who lives on a quiet street with his wife and three children, aged 8, 6 and 4.  His lawn is always a dark wonderland of scary figures, more than life-sized, in various guises and contraptions, from execution in an electric chair to scenarios with video amplification, music and smoke.

This year, I stopped and knocked on his door, but Domenic wasn’t home. However, a young mother, Terri Zumatto was walking past the house with her two children, Victoria, aged 8 and Michael aged 4.  When I asked what they thought of their neighbor’s display, Victoria told me with great animation about all of its special effects.

I later reached out to Domenic by phone and asked whether he knocked himself out each year for the kids or for himself.  “It’s both,” he said, explaining that it’s “in his blood.”  “My parents always decorated their lawn and instilled the fun of it in me. Now my dad comes to help me build new devices to add to my collection.”

The scary fun of Halloween seems poised to overtake the serenity of Christmas in terms of money outlay. The National Retail Association reports that this year we will spend close to $8 billion on both costumes and outside decorations for Halloween, more than double of what was spent in 2005.  But, judging from this year’s Christmas displays in this area, I don’t think the industry has to worry about losing any of its Christmas decoration enthusiasts.

Interestingly more and more landscapers and lighting companies are getting into the Christmas decoration business to address most people’s fears that they’ll fall off a ladder when attaching lights to roofs. 

The most spectacular decoration I’ve seen in my town, Yorktown Heights, is a huge tree, which I believe is a maple, totally covered in purple Italian lights with long traveling icicles called dripping lights alternating throughout its top. It’s located on the property of a hair salon in our town’s center on Route 118, directly across from Triangle Shopping Center.

The display’s creator is Chris Waugh of NY Landscape Lighting who can be reached -- for either holiday decoration or regular landscape lighting -- at 914-962-2095. His website is: www.nylandscapelighting.com.

And Bobby, if you ever read this, what happened to Dad’s Lionel Train set? If you still have it, hand it over. You’ve had it long enough.

Bill Primavera is a licensed Realtor® associated with Coldwell Banker and a lifestyles columnist who writes regularly as The Home Guru. For those seeking advice on home maintenance or who want to buy or sell a home, visit his website, www.PrimaveraHomes.com, or call him directly at 914-522-2076.


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