From all of them to all of you
The city neighborhoods that go all out(side) to wish passersby the brightest of Christmases.
Lots of people deck the halls (and the doors and windows) of their homes, sharing their holiday cheer and creativity with the world thanks to outdoor lights and decorations.
But then there are the serious decorators: folks who decorate their homes and then entire Philadelphia city blocks. This isn't just decorating, it's creating holiday destinations.
Take Alex Du. The Du home on the 1600 block of South 13th Street, easily the brightest and flashiest on an enthusiastically decorated block, has everything from LED lights shooting down the front of the house to a life-size Santa sitting on the stoop in an easy chair. Three - yes, three - Christmas trees glow in the front window behind a replica of Disney World with a working train. A red neon outline of Mickey Mouse on the front window completes the display.
"We love Disney, and we love Christmas," Du says with a shrug, explaining his creation. "I change the theme every year. We're doing Disney this year so I've got the whole resort and I've even got the monorail."
The most popular feature, at least for the neighborhood kids, may be the computerized Santa Claus image that appears in an upstairs window. He occasionally waves and calls hello to onlookers below before going back to checking his list (and checking it twice).
"He loves coming by here. We come by almost every day," said Mitsuyo Donner as her 2-year-old son Toya gazed up at the Santa image. "He says, 'I want to see Santa, I want to see Santa,' so we come by. And then he talks to Santa Claus. He'll say, 'Hi Santa, what are you doing?' "
Over on the 2700 block of Smedley Street, the mammoth display has its own fan club, some of whom have been coming to the Smedley cul-de-sac for generations.
"We love it. I come here every year. I've been coming every year since I was a kid and I'm 29 now," says Fallon Girini, who was walking around the display with her family. "Every year they add something, but this block has always been amazing."
What awaits Girini and other fans who stroll or roll through is a display on the parklike median that sits between the two sides of houses. Highlights include a 45-foot tree topped with a glistening LED-lit star; a hand-carved sleigh carrying a life-size animated Santa and pulled by lighted reindeer; and a lighted candy cane arch through which visitors can walk from one side of the block to the other.
Residents say the display, which went up Thanksgiving weekend and will be around until Jan. 6, is a source of pride. It's a way not only for the block to pull together and celebrate but also to keep up the tradition of making Smedley the best-decorated block in the neighborhood.
"It's great. Every neighbor pitches in either financially or with the labor. It's really a neighborhood effort," says Pete Cerone, the Smedley Street resident who is the unofficial man in charge of the display. "It's tradition. When I was a little boy, my parents used to take us up this street all the time. When I bought up here I was excited. I love all of this."
Cerone isn't kidding. Even as he takes a visitor around the display he's talking about the future.
"I start planning what we're going to do next year right now, trying to figure out what's missing, what's needed," he says. "You can look around and say, maybe we need a little more red here, maybe we can fit something in that space over there, which colors go with what.
"Next year I want to do more of an archway, a bigger arch over the candy canes where we cover the whole thing. We're looking to maybe add a gingerbread house. And I was thinking that it would be nice to really decorate the big tree more. We should really do it up, 1,000 lights, decorations, the works."
There's an added incentive to Cerone's efforts. Just two blocks away in the 2700 block of Colorado Street sits another annual display. And one of that block's residents is none other than Cerone's brother Louie.
"Yeah, there's a little bit of competition between the two streets, but it's friendly," says Louie Cerone, whose house features a light show synchronized to music played on a loudspeaker.
But while no one on Colorado would dare to go on the record conceding victory to Smedley, the Colorado residents admit they are at a distinct disadvantage this year. Their electrical system blew out last year just before Christmas and the block had to focus its efforts (and dollars) on getting a new system in place this year.
"Just getting all the electric set up this year was a big job. But we're already planning for next year," Louie Cerone says, echoing the "we'll get 'em next year" sentiment heard up and down Colorado.
In the meantime, over on Smedley, all is bright and the air is full of good cheer. Neighbors wave to passersby, watch for vandals, and chuckle at the so-called curb bumpers - visitors who get so wrapped up in looking that they forget to watch where they're driving.
"You know what? There's enough [stuff] in the world today. If we can get away from it for a little while then that's great," Pete Cerone says. "If people can drive around or walk around with their families and have a good time then it's all good. It's worth it."