Monday, December 24, 2012

A Bronx (Christmas) Tale - The Bronx Christmas House

Where can you see Santa (with all of his reindeer), cherubs, unicorns, Cinderella (complete with carriage, horsemen, and pink horses), Marilyn Monroe, Cher, Diana Ross, Superman, Michael Jackson, Disney figures, glitzy Bob Mackie-style gowns, religious figurines, body guards, AND a manger scene all together on the same gold-leafed, rococo-style, columned stage?
This time of year neighbors often try to outdo each other when it comes to the holiday decorating, there's nothing like the "Christmas House" in the Bronx. It's a cross between Disney World, a wax museum, the Grammys, the Oscars, and the Radio City Christmas Show. Even during the summer months, if you're driving down Pelham Parkway, you'll first be distracted by the house's garish pink color. At this time of year, you'll also notice the extra spotlights and activity; like some kind of party is going on. Then you'll notice the crowds. You'll be forced to turn the car around and see this up close for yourself.
The delightfully tacky display with its own Yelp review page and website has been a Bronx tradition for about 40 years since 1973 when the Garabedian family experienced a Christmas Eve miracle which they vowed to keep as a family secret. A blurb in the New York Times tried to get to the root of it, but the family will not discuss it. The Garabedians have been decorating their cotton-candy colored home this way ever since as a way to say thanks and "give back" to their community. It's a full time project with new ideas and new figures (almost 200) appearing annually. If you look closely, it was even a backdrop for Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You" video.
Great care is taken with the mannequins and gowns. The extensive arrangement is dismantled nightly, and covered during inclement weather. As I was taking these photos, various family members were unwrapping the moving mannequins, replacing them after a night of indoor storage, straightening their gowns, and quaffing their wigs and furs. "I'm So Excited" by the Pointer Sisters and other lively music blares into the otherwise silent night. Passers-by continuously take in the strange and overwhelming scene. What is this all about? The son of the family explained that it's a party, a party of the utmost celebration and importance. As he pointed to the manger scene on the roof, "it's a very special birthday party, not just for celebrities, but for everyone. Everyone is invited."
I overheard someone asking the family why don't they just have the usual snowman and Santa on the front lawn like everyone else? The reply was that anyone can have those things, but you can't see anything like this anywhere in the world. He's probably right.

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