DYKER HEIGHTS — Just days after New Yorkers were finishing the last bites of their Thanksgiving leftovers, the holiday spirit was lighting up in Dyker Heights. In what has become a seasonal tradition, residents decorated their front yards with intricate installations of lights, gigantic nutcrackers, and the traditional Nativity scene.
This year, missing from the neighborhood were street vendors selling cotton candy and food. They were prohibited from setting up shop by a law passed in October by City Council after residents complained about “unruly” vendors. The new law, introduced by Councilman Justin Brannan, prohibits vendors from 2 p.m. to 6 a.m., from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve from 10th to 13th Avenue and from 81st to 86th Street.
The Dyker Heights holiday lights tradition, which originated in the mid-1980s, continues to attract visitors keen on seeing the intricate installations on 84th Street. The yards also feature giant inflatables based on pop-culture characters, from the Grinch to the Avengers, perfect for selfies.
“Christmas means a lot to us, it’s the most important holiday of the year,” said a man who would identify himself only as Basel as he finalized a Nativity scene with lights in his front yard. “So we express it by putting lights on. So we bring joy to people who come over to see it.”
Originally from Damascus, Syria, Basel said that by the time he arrived in the neighborhood around 10 years ago, neighbors had been putting up lights for more than 20 years or more.
“I’ve been doing it for 30-something years,” said Joe Smalley, who lives on 81st Street. “My mother started, so when I moved to this place, I continued the tradition.”
The colors, characters, and designs of the decorations are as varied as the languages of the people walking the streets of Dyker Heights looking at the lights. Visitors from Germany, Italy, and Spain were dropped off by an organized tour or took the subway after reading about the display online.
“It’s incredible — something different,” said Sandra Rodríguez, visiting from Bilbao, Spain. “We’re not used to it, as back home people don’t decorate the neighborhood like this. People do decorate but inside their homes, very little on the outside.”
Others from closer to New York City wanted to pass on the experience they’ve been having for decades to kids or grandkids.
“I was raised in Brooklyn, so I wanted to show my grandson where I was raised,” said Glenn Guccio, 54, of Sayreville, N.J. “And he loved it. Yeah, we had a good time.”
You can see light displays from 11th to 13th Avenues from 83rd to 86th Streets. Best to go after dusk.