Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Festive mood in Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights amid Covid

Festive mood in Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights amid Covid

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
In Brooklyn, New York’s illuminated Dyker Heights neighbourhood, not even a pandemic can keep the festive spirit down. AFP

Festive mood in Brooklyn’s Dyker Heights amid Covid

In a New York where traditional holiday performances are cancelled, Rockefeller Center tree viewings are timed and travel is ill-advised, it’s beginning to feel a lot like the Covid Grinch stole Christmas.

But in Brooklyn’s illuminated Dyker Heights neighbourhood, not even a pandemic can keep the festive spirit down.

The quasi-suburban residential district features large single-family homes that in late November start shimmering with elaborate holiday displays.

This year tourism is reined in as are bus tours to the southwestern Brooklyn neighbourhood that proudly displays its Italian-American heritage.

But its in-your-face Christmas glow is still drawing large crowds, albeit with most in masks.

“I’m in awe,” said Eric Steiner, who journeyed from Manhattan with his husband to see the displays for the first time.

“It’s such a festive spirit at a time when things are, you know, uncertain and scary for a lot of people,” the 47-year-old said in front of a home draped with thousands of glittering lights.

According to local lore the tradition began in the mid-1980s, started by a woman named Lucy Spata in honour of her mother’s memory.

Her home is barely visible behind the lavish display featuring angels, Santas, nutcrackers and a gold throne with crimson upholstery where gawkers can snap photos.

“A lot of people are getting depressed,” said holiday lights tour guide Robert Perez.

“I think this brings a little laughter and happiness.”

‘For the children’

Vincent Privitelli generally begins decorating his home just after Halloween, and it takes about a month to put all the elements in place, including bedazzled evergreen arches.

The 33-year-old – who sometimes appears in costume as Rudolph – said he and his family debated whether it was appropriate to decorate in 2020.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
People look at homes decorated for Christmas in the Brooklyn neighbourhood of Dyker Heights on December 15 in the US’ New York City. AFP

“I said ‘you know what, I’m gonna do it this year’ – with Covid and all, for the children. We need something positive,” he said, with a string of vintage-style bulbs around his neck.

Tour guide Perez said this year is different in that most people coming for the lights are local – “you had people coming in from Italy, Europe” in the past, he said.

For Christine Kong, who ventured over from neighbouring New Jersey, the holiday season has provided a moment to “reflect on everything that happened this year.”

It’s “a different type of excitement – and I guess hopeful, to what’s to come in 2021 . . . Because it can’t get worse than this”, the 31-year-old said.

The festivities gridlock traffic and make parking impossible but the lights are a boon to local businesses.

Robert Cicero of John’s Deli serves cup after cup of hot chocolate, along with the occasional hero sandwich dripping mozzarella and red sauce.

“I thought it would be a big thing that people weren’t going to come – but I guess the people are coming because they want to be outdoors” and still get in the holiday spirit, Cicero said.

“Listen, everybody loves Rockefeller Center,” he continued, referring to the city’s annual tree made famous by decades of pop culture references.

But Cicero said the timed, five-minute viewings at that attraction this year make places like Dyker Heights more enticing.

“Christmas in Dyker Heights . . . that’s really what it comes down to,” said Privitelli, who has lived there 30 years.

“Who needs Rockefeller Center?”

MOST VIEWED

  • Research key to Kanitha’s rep for expertise

    Sok Kanitha is used to weighing in on controversial issues using a confident approach that signals expertise and authority, and a recent video she made was no exception. Her “Episode 342: The History of NATO” video went live on January 16, 2023 and immediately shot to 30,000 likes and 3,500

  • Cambodia maintains 'Kun Khmer' stance despite Thailand’s boycott threat

    Cambodia has taken the position that it will use the term "Kun Khmer" to refer to the sport of kickboxing at the upcoming Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, and has removed the term Muay from all references to the sport. Despite strong reactions from the Thai

  • Knockout! Kun Khmer replaces ‘Muay’ for Phnom Penh Games

    Cambodia has decided to officially remove the word Muay from the programme of the 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games 2023 in May. “Kun Khmer” will instead be used to represent the Southeast Asian sport of kickboxing, in accordance with the wishes of the Cambodian people. Vath

  • Artificial insemination takes herd from 7 to 700

    Some farms breed local cows or even import bulls from a broad for the purpose of breeding heavier livestock for meat production. One Tbong Khnum farmer has found a more efficient way. Hout Leang employs artificial insemination to fertilise local cows. Thanks to imported “straws”

  • New int’l airport nearly half complete as travel industry returns to life

    Construction of a new airport that is slated to serve the capital has passed the 43 per cent completion mark, raising prospects for a proper recovery in the civil aviation and tourism sectors as international travellers return to the Kingdom in increasingly large numbers. The figure

  • Chinese group tours return to Cambodia starting Feb 6

    Cambodia is among 20 countries selected by Beijing for a pilot programme allowing travel agencies to provide international group tours as well as flight and hotel packages to Chinese citizens, following a three-year ban. As the days tick down until the programme kicks off on February 6,