There was nothing better to do this time of the year, when Billy, Krissi, and Kenny were little, then to pile into the Ford Taurus station wagon, and drive around Mineola and the surrounding villages and look at what we called “Santa Lights.” That term came into being, because on one of our nights looking at the houses, one of the kids wanted to know why some houses were decorated, and others weren’t. Susie and I creatively informed our 3 little ones that the ones that were decorated had little kids living there, and the lights were so that Santa could more easily find the houses on Christmas Eve. Thus was born the term, “Santa Lights!”
Susie was pregnant with Krissi and Kenny when we moved into the Mineola house, and Billy hadn’t had his 4th birthday yet, so we indeed did have little ones at home in those early years in Mineola, and did our best with Santa Lights! We must have pictures someplace, but in the late 80s and early 90s, years of everyone not having a digital camera in their pocket, the numbers of pictures we have of things like our house decorations are not large. The Mineola house had a front porch, and ours was the site of an annual Christmas portrait! Right in the center, there was a fireplace (a fake fireplace that was in the first house we bought in New Hyde Park, and although never used inside, traveled to Mineola with us) that included a burning fire (well, a nailed together group of logs and a carefully placed flicker bulb which made it look like a roaring fire), which was outlined with lights, and complete with stockings hung from the chimney with care! To one side was a Christmas tree (a fake tree that was a hand me down from my work friend Johnny Donovan) , and one of our porch chairs, that Santa was sitting in (Santa was a plastic type character suit, that was stuffed with newspapers every year). Of course there were presents under the tree, and Christmas music playing from a hidden speaker! To the left of the porch, on the lawn, was an illuminated manger scene complete with a creche I’d made with firring strips! Very fitting we thought for a house that had 3 little Santa recipients in residence!
As the kids got older, and tastes changed, we went from colored lights to all white lights out front, and the fireplace, tree, Santa and the Manger scene morphed into garland and wreaths and lighting up the fence around the house. Things were added and we refined the look as the years went on, and honestly, as we got older and the kids no longer lived with us, we went for ease of decorating too! The last year we decorated the Mineola house was Christmas 2016, before we sold the house after 31 years. Here’s a look at that!
Although we no longer have little kids, and that faithful Taurus station wagon is long gone, we now live down at the beach in Ocean City, and looking at Santa Lights is still a nice way Susie and I like to spend some time at Christmastime! In fact, as I write this, we’ve already made three passes at Ocean City in our Honda CRV to check out the neighbors and their Santa Lights!
Here’s a look at some of our Pennlyn Neighbors…
And here’s what we can see from our front porch.
Here are some of our favorites that we saw around town!
Christmas is now, and always has been a big event in the D’Elia household. Early in our relationship, I discovered Susie’s love for Christmas, so much so, that on Christmas Day, 1978, I asked her to become my Mrs. Claus, and she said “yes!” This Christmas Day will be the 42nd Anniversary of “the day she said yes!” On our first Christmas in 1979 in our Port Washington apartment, I wanted everything to be perfect! We bought a much too expensive real tree ($75 way back then), but then forgot to get a saw to cut the bottom off before we put it into the stand, so we used our Ginsu knife to do the task! Christmas morning we opened presents while drinking Andre Champagne (it was $3.99 then) and watching Susie’s favorite movie, White Christmas! Unfortunately, WABC TV was showing the movie, and had cut it to 60 minutes including commercials, so unless you knew the movie, it made no sense! After our morning alone, it was time to pack up and move on to Susie’s Mom and Dad’s and the Johnson/Vincent/D’Elia Family Christmas Day Celebration! That first Christmas pretty much established the pattern that would be our Christmas for years to come!
Once the kids came along (Billy in 1982 and Krissi and Kenny in 1986), it just got more so. The entire period from Thanksgiving to Christmas was full of events like cookie-making, shopping (Dad took one of the 3 kids out alone on 3 days after work so they could shop for Mommy while Mommy did the same thing for Daddy!), wrapping, decorating, and just enjoying Christmas and all it meant to our family! Even before there was such a thing, we did our best to make it a “Hallmark Christmas Movie” holiday!
I think back fondly to our Christmases when our three were small. It always included Christmas Eve Lobster Dinners at Grandma D’Elia’s in Bayside, then running to the Community Church of East Williston for the Christmas Pageant and Christmas Eve services (Krissi was miss-cast as an Angel one year), returning to our house, often with my Mom in tow, and the D’Elia Family traditions of Italian Cold Cut Sandwiches, more Andre “cheap Champagne,” and watching Christmas Vacation! Once the kids were all in bed, it was time to attack their stockings, making sure to remove any Toys R Us tags from the packages and Dad’s task of assembling any toys requiring it! Christmas morning ALWAYS came too early, but the rules were the kids couldn’t go downstairs without us, so “Santa” would always leave a little something at the foot of their beds to occupy them, while the adults pried open their eye lids! Downstairs, everybody took their established places around the living room, presents were passed out, and the chaos of opening presents and keeping the presents separated from the wrapping paper got underway. They were fun days, that I’d love to be able to turn the hands of time back to….even the one year Kenny hated all his presents because he hadn’t gotten a kilt! Soon after presents and something to eat, it was time to either (A) clean up, because the entire clan was coming over to our house, or (B) walk away from the mess, dress, and travel to Susie’s Mom and Dad’s or her sister Barbara’s house to celebrate with the entire clan!
This year, however, how many folks will be singing along with the Christmastime classic, “Its the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”? A recent Good Housekeeping article, had the rather ominous title, IS CHRISTMAS 2020 CANCELED DUE TO COVID 19?”. In Italy and Germany, all Christmas Markets around the country have been canceled. In NYC, visiting the tree at Rockefeller Center will be a new and different experience this year, requiring tickets! Why, even here in our decidedly “Hallmark Christmas Movie Town” of Ocean City, NJ, many holiday events like Miracle on Asbury on Black Friday, the Christmas Parade, First Night and First Day celebrations, have gone the way of our 4th of July Fireworks, the Night in Venice Boat Parade, and the Boardwalk Air Show…all events where folks might gather, have been canceled!
Obviously, things will be very different for many families in 2020, and a lot of folks are really having trouble finding their Christmas Cheer! Thanks to the Corona Virus, over 300,000 of our fellow Americans have lost their lives, and millions are affected by those deaths! A lot of folks are unemployed with little prospect of getting jobs, and entire industries have shuttered and many have no idea when, or even if, they will be able to get back to work. For many, many families this year, Christmas is indeed canceled!
It’s sad, but I’ve heard so many people say that they just can’t get into the holidays this year. They wonder why they should put up a tree or decorate the house. “It’s just not going to be the same,” many of them say, “so we might as well forget it and skip it this year!” Why even my very own Mrs. Claus had some trouble finding her holiday spirit early on! I’m sure a huge part of the reason for us is that this will be a very different Christmas for the D’Elia/Fox/Mikowicz Family. Blessedly, Covid has not directly touched our family’s lives, as it has so many around the world, and in our local communities, but for the first time in our married life, we will be spending the holiday alone! On one hand it’s very sad, that we will not see our kids, their spouses, and our Grandkids, but there is a part of us that’s kind of looking forward to the luxury of doing whatever we want, whenever we want, on Christmas Day! We may absolutely hate it, but for now, we are looking forward to finding out what we’ve never had in our 43 years of being together is like! In the end, Christmas Spirit did indeed find the D’Elia Household, and kind of like in Show Business, The Show Must Go On!!
So the tree is up and decorated..
The Manger is in place…
and Susie’s got her SnowMan/SnowWoman Village together…
The Windows are decorated…both inside..
The outside of the house is in the Christmas mood…
And even the Honda CRV is ready!!
Susie’s got her wrapping station set up in the den, and gifts for our kids and Grandkids have been wrapped, packed into boxes, and after multiple trips to the Ocean City Post Office and UPS, just like Santa and his sleigh, the gifts are on their way to North Carolina, Florida, and New York!
Traditions are an important part of our holidays, and while some are going to be different this year, the ones that have been and will continue to be maintained are like a warm hug! Lord knows, we all could use a hug this holiday season! So no matter what you celebrate, I hope the magic and the spirit of the season is able to find you, and bring just a little bit of joy to your heart. We can’t forget the people who are no longer with us, or those suffering spiritually, medically, and financially this Christmas. All we can attempt to do is to share the warmth of the season with those we love, and look forward to a better Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa in 2021! Susie and I send our love to our whole family…those that joined via birth, those that became members through marriage, and those who who are part of our family because of friendship!
Happy Christmas to All, and to All a Good Night!
PS – Two pictures from our first married Christmas, 41 years ago! Susie that morning in our living room in our Port Washington apartment, and the Manger under the tree..the same Manger I might add, that is pictured above! Bought for our first Christmas in 1979 at A&S in Hempstead and still with us!