In 1927, General Electric began selling its new outdoor Christmas lights. The sets consisted of a string of seven lamps, first offered in round bulbs and then in the quaint flame shape we know today. With interior Christmas tree lights still a relatively novel invention, the company needed a way to create some buzz for the new exterior lights. With that in mind, General Electric and the various Edison Electric distribution companies began sponsoring neighborhood "decorating with color-light" contests. Within a few years, communities across the country started ramping up the neighborly decorating rivalry during the holidays, a tradition that has reached a fever pitch in modern times.
No longer confined to charming scenes of houses neatly trimmed with a scattering of sparklers, many homeowners — not to mention whole neighborhoods and even entire cities — now deck their homes with such a flood of holiday illumination that the lights can be seen from outer space. Here are some of the flashiest of the bunch.
1. Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, New York
Nestled in the southwest corner of New York City’s borough of Brooklyn is Dyker Heights, an Italian-American neighborhood that has become world-famous for the exuberant degree to which residents adorn their homes. Santas are hired and posted outside giving candy to passersby, brass bands and costumed characters stroll about, and tour buses line up, sometimes for hours, waiting to cruise the light-encrusted homes. The neighborhood has become so well-known for it’s over-the-top ornamentation that it is now commonly referred to as “Dyker Lights.”
2. The Lynch family home, Queens, New York
Employing 300 illuminated blow-mold figures, more than 100 animatronics and at least 300,000 lights, Kevin Lynch's decorating mission begins in September. It's an annual event that was inspired 17 years ago by some a friendly rivalry with the neighbor. This year, the Lynch home will be featured on the ABC reality show, “The Great Christmas Light Fight,” in which four families from across the country will be competing for a $50,000 prize — money that could come in handy, as Lynch spends up to $3,000 each year at post-holiday decoration sales.
3. The Richards family home, Canberra, Australia
David Richards and his wife, Janean, can honestly say that they have the best lit holiday house in the world ... as the Guinness World Records bestowed the title upon the home in 2013 for having the most lights on a residential property. With a total of 502,165 lights, their inspiration is to raise money for the charity SIDS and Kids. And although the home’s monthly electric bill increases by around $2,500 to fuel the glow, thankfully they are using renewable energy supplied by the local electric company.
4. The homes of Richmond, Virginia
The denizens of Richmond, Virginia, go so bonkers for dressing up their homes in lights that the town has spawned the official Tacky Lights Tour, in which an annual registry is created listing homes with 40,000 lights or more. There is even a Tacky Lights road race, and with more than 70 million lights in total, the city’s mayor has deemed Richmond the “tacky lights capital of the world.”
5. The Amazing Grace Christmas House, Pleasant Grove, Utah
The wacky nightclub rave light show that is the Amazing Grace Christmas House in Pleasant Grove, Utah, sadly now only lives on in videos like this, since the traffic it generated forced its producer to stop the show. Designed and programmed by Richard Holdman, a charity donation box placed in front of the display had raised more than $40,000 for the Utah Make-a-Wish Foundation. Watch the video all the way through; it’s a wonder.
6. Kobe Luminarie, Kobe, Japan
Although this lavish display of Christmas lights occurs in December and looks quite Christmassy, the Kobe Luminarie is actually a festival to commemorate the Great Hanshin earthquake of 1995. After the earthquake, the city was plunged into darkness; the first Luminarie in December of the same year – created with lights donated by the Italian government – was created to give the citizens hope that the city would be restored. The festival continues annually, making it one of the most intricate and beautiful displays of Christmas lights anywhere.
7. Hyatt Extreme Christmas, Plantation, Florida
Kathy and Mark Hyatt of Plantation, Fla., may not have snow-covered woods in which to display their flashing festive finery, but that doesn’t stop them from offering visitors one of the more extreme examples of Christmas lights gone mad. For this year’s extravaganza, Hyatt worked 10 hours a day for almost three weeks, all in the name of Christmas spirit … and donations to the Humane Society.
8. The Slayer House
Because nothing goes together like heavy metal and Christmas; bonus points for the lip-syncing metalhead snowman.
9. Mandaluyong Philippines
While those of us in snowy climes inhabited by icicles and evergreen trees may not think of tropical islands as very Christmassy, Policarpio street in the city of Mandaluyong in the Philippines is here to prove us wrong. Home to a dedicated collection of neighbors who take their Christmas decorating seriously, the street is a destination for holiday visitors from near and far. Millions of sparkling Christmas lights adorn what seems to be every square inch of some of the homes, encrusting them like twinkling jewels, while rooftops and gardens play home to nativity scenes, Santa Claus figures, toys, and other holiday decor. Who needs snow, anyway?
10. Robolights, Palm Springs, California
And clearly talking first prize for most … interesting? We present Robolights! The fanciful creation is the work of artist Kenny Hassan Irwin, who might be best described as the love child of Jeff Lebowski and Rube Goldberg with a bit of swami thrown in for good measure. This special mix of Christmas with embryonic aliens, steam-spitting robots and extraterrestrial slugs comes from Irwin’s desire to create a “physical wonderland of lights combined with fantasy of imaginary otherworldly North Pole themes run by robots.” Be sure not to miss the hybrid creature in the video above, which is 30 percent tiger, 30 percent reindeer, and 40 percent robot ... because nothing says "Christmas" like a sci-fi phantasmagoria replete with "nuclear elves" and Santa bringing good cheer aboard a "battle wagon" pulled by a team of 12 robotic reindeer.
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