Exceedingly more elaborate than what I ever saw in the 1960s and 1970s, Christmas lighting on several Dyker Heights blocks is now unlike anything seen elsewhere. Harpaz even talks of tourists coming "from around the world (Australia, Japan, Holland, England, Northern Ireland) and the country (Utah, Texas, California, Louisiana, Missouri, Virginia, Florida, New York and New Jersey)." Yet inarguably, some of this is over-the-top: "many residents on blocks where homes can go for $1 million or more hire professional decorators to use the latest in LED technology.... Professional displays can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $10,000 or more."
When I was growing up, Dyker Heights/Bay Ridge was primarily filled with working class families of Italian and Irish heritages. Though we jokingly argued as to which was the better heritage, I was secretly convinced that my Italian friends and neighbors had an absolute corner on the cuisine (And I am today convinced that my old neighborhood is the absolute best place for Italian meals and desserts. You just cannot get a good cannoli outside of Brooklyn!).
Though their forebears had not come to this country sharing a language, they did share a treasured Roman Catholicism, which they wished to pass on to their children and their children's children. Struggling immigrants of the early to mid 20th century somehow found the resources to build beautiful churches, as well as parish schools and high schools. These were not of the slap-them-together, shoddy construction variety! Those working class people of the early to mid 20th century wanted true beauty in the construction of churches to honor God. The parishes adjoining my own even included a bascilica (as well as a second church later to be declared a bascilica) and a national shrine. And with the "armies" of nuns and religious brothers that were then available, local parish grade schools were filled to capacity with about 1600 kids per school.
My dad died in 1984, when I was a young man. At my dad's funeral, one of my neighbors pointed out what shone the most brightly about our Dyker Heights/Bay Ridge street. There had been about 36 kids within four years of my age from 13 families on that street of my youth. Somehow or other, not a single one of those families had been impacted by divorce! When we went to bed at night, each of us slept under the same roof with our moms and our dads. We were able to thrive because of the committed love of moms and dads for each other and for their kids. We were a generation truly blessed by the sacrifices of our parents and grandparents and their absolute commitments to their families.
Even with the $10,000 LED technology now applied to houses, the true shining lights of my old Brooklyn neighborhood is in the heritage of committed love between husbands and wives for each other and their children.