Christmas in New York City is truly like nothing else in the world. Everywhere you look, there are trees, window displays, and bright twinkling lights. And in the brightest city in the world, there’s no Christmas tradition that sparkles with the holiday spirit like the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights.
Dyker Heights is located in the southwest corner of Brooklyn, near Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, and Borough Park. It’s a beautiful neighborhood, with tremendous homes that look about as far from “New York City” as you can get.
Dyker Heights is well known for its park and golf course. But let’s be honest. It is most famous for the annual Dyker Heights Christmas Lights. Why? The lights are over the top, loud, and everything that Christmas spirit is.
Each year right after Thanksgiving, families start to hang their lights. The lights stay up until the beginning of January, when many of the elaborate display pieces are put away for storage until the holidays roll around again.
The history of the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights is a family affair. Credit tends to go to Lucy Spata, a resident of 84th Street, for starting the annual spectacle to keep her family tradition of decorating alive. At first, the neighbors hated it. Then, they joined her. The Spata household has been decorated for more than 40 years, and is today one of the most popular homes for visitors.
The lights are a neighborhood tradition - this isn't a competitive thing. Neighbors try to outdo each other, but it's all in good fun.
If you’re looking at these pictures and all you can think is, “Gee, how much does all of this cost?!” then take a seat. Most of the elaborate displays are not done by the homeowners themselves. They’re decked out by local decorating companies, with some of the yards costing more than $20,000.
Each year, more than 100,000 people head to Dyker Heights to look at the Christmas lights. This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the lights have been a little scaled down. Some homes are not participating, and the crowds are pretty nonexistent.
Naturally, I took advantage of the chance to see the millions of lights without anyone around. I LOVE Christmas in New York City, but I've never been able to get to Dyker Heights in the other years I've lived here.
I made the commute down (you’ll want to take the D train to 79th Street and walk over. It’s about a mile walk, or you can take the bus. The best streets for the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights are from 11th to 13th Avenues and from 83rd to 86th Street.
It can be a bit confusing to get there, but it’s definitely worth it. There’s so many “oh wow!” setups. Yes, some are absolutely super tacky. But this is such a fun way to do something different for Christmas, and it’s a great chance to see part of the city that you’ve likely never seen before. I only wish that there were more lights to see...and that it was warmer. I highly recommend bundling up more than you think you need to.
Despite the pandemic and all of the difficulties of 2020, the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights are still here to do what they were always intended to do - make people smile. Even if we can't go home to our families, this year, we can still have a little (okay, a lot) Christmas cheer.
Interested in learning more about the Dyker Heights Christmas Lights? The Bowery Boys did a great podcast episode on Dyker Heights and how the lights became so big.