advertisement

For 48 weeks a year this mild-mannered Suffolk County suburb on Long Island 45 miles (or roughly an hour's drive) from Manhattan is a working-class village with a predominantly Catholic population. But when December rolls around, Babylon (www.villageofbabylonny.gov) and neighboring Deer Park are transformed into a Christmas wonderland where home owners go all out to decorate their houses, gardens, garages and anything else they can put lights on. For a free holiday evening that's exciting and will have the whole family in awe, put your kids in the car, put on your favorite Christmas CD and hit the Long Island Expressway for some ho-ho-ho holiday fun.

The most spectacular Christmas extravaganza and the one that causes minor traffic jams as cars line up in the right hand lane of Route 231 (Deer Park Avenue) to make the turn into the small street, is an otherwise simple house in Kime Avenue, North Babylon. I don't need to give you the actual house number because the illumination from its hundreds of thousands of Christmas lights and displays strewn across the house, the garage, the roof and the front lawn, is visible from the main road. For reasons that remain unknown, the owner of this humble abode (the "North Pole") decided that his gift to the world would be a Christmas miracle of light and spectacle. I don't even celebrate Christmas but was amazed and bedazzled by the sheer scale and grandeur of this holiday project. There are giant candy canes, a chorus of dozens of inflatable choir singers on the garage roof, toy soldiers creating a fence line, drums, angels a plenty, reindeer, a 40 foot high Christmas tree, swirling mini Christmas trees, candles, stars, lanterns, animals of every description, a variety of Santa Clauses, snowmen, elves and presents -- all covered with an blinding array of colorful twinkling lights. Donation boxes stand out front to collect money for local charities, although I did note that a petroleum company was a partial "sponsor" of the otherwise privately paid-for display. I have it on good authority (I asked the locals) that this home takes so long to decorate that the owners start up in September, but don't illuminate until December, They also give out hot chocolate and candy cane to children on chilly evenings.

Don't expect to be able to park your car in this street, in fact there are numerous well-posted signs indicating that you are not allowed to stop or park anywhere on Kime Avenue. I actually feel sorry for the neighbors who must have a tough time just reaching their own driveways each evening. My advice would be to find a spot a few streets away, like on Parkdale Drive (parallel to Kime Avenue) or further along on Mohawk Drive. The walk from there will be just as rewarding as hundreds of homes feature their own versions of the "Miracle on Kime Avenue." A few yards up the road is Greenwood Drive, home to several dozen more captivating Christmas collages. There's one called Christmas Wonderland, a slightly less over-the-top example of how Christmas decorations can take over every square inch of your property. They have a donation bin for money going towards The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, but that is dwarfed by Santa, his sleigh, soldiers, trees, candy canes and miscellaneous seasonal adornments.

Only a few hundred yards down Route 231 you'll find Liberty Street, Deer Park, a street that has a long history of putting on a Christmas show. For at least the last 20 years, the ranch house at number 119 has been the epicenter of the neighborhood's holiday season celebrations, with cars slowly streaming down the street to see all the lights, color and Christmas cheer. The story behind this enormous collection of Santa-inspired sensations is that the house's owner used to run a paper route and was so impressed by a local family's decorations that he befriended the elderly man that made it his annual passion to adorn his home. When the man died, he bequeathed his entire collection of inflatables and Christmas motifs to the paper boy, who in turn took it upon himself to retain the tradition. He then spent the next 20 years adding to the collection and the result is the illuminated magic that you see in Liberty Street. Again all money raised here goes to Leukemia research so your visit is helping people.

Whether it ends up being a white Christmas or you are just looking for a cheap yet cheerful way to spend some quality festive time with your family, the streets and avenues of these little hamlets of Long Island offer the joy of collective gasps, grins and giggles as you enjoy this Christmas season together.