The Christmas season holds an aura of excitement and anticipation to spend time with family and close friends. Often, these Christmastime sentiments are closely associated with cold weather and the fluffy white flakes that people experience in the North. In Southern California, where the ground stays green, residents find ways other than enjoying snow to make the Christmas experience something altogether memorable.
Thoroughbred Street in Rancho Cucamonga exemplifies this, where decorating houses has become a tradition that draws people together to experience the festive spirit of Christmas, all without white snow. Over the past twenty-four years, turning onto Thoroughbred Street and climbing out of the car any time between early December and Christmas has slowly evolved into an experience that is like stepping into a different world where Christmas spirit hangs in the air the way mistletoe hangs over doorways, where houses that line the street are carefully swathed in shimmering lights and shiny bells, and where Christmas music plays around it all. The whole scene fairly breathes the festive excitement of the holidays.
Since 1986, decorating houses has become more and more of a Christmas tradition on Thoroughbred Street and now, nearly every house is completely covered in lights and decorations. One resident, Russ, and his wife, Tracy, have lived on Thoroughbred Street for the past 10 years and have decorated their house every year. He explained that the tradition of decorating houses on Thoroughbred began as a competition between two neighbors to see who could put up the most lights, and slowly, over the years, the competition brought more lights that started to cover not only the front trees, but the entire house, all of the other trees, and sometimes even the grass. Soon more and more people in the neighborhood were becoming involved and those who didn’t decorate started to find signs in their front yards that said “scrooge.” Now, while it is not mandatory, and while it is not a competition of any sort, nearly every house in the neighborhood is elaborately arrayed with Christmas lights, Santa Clause figures, music, elves, angels, wise men, snowmen, gingerbread men, and the list goes on and on. “I always did it for myself anyway, but people really appreciate it here,” said Russ who dresses as the Grinch on the weekends. Tracy laughed and said that people crowd around to see him and to take pictures. When asked what her favorite part of this Christmas tradition is, she spread her arms and said, “Talking to people like this, seeing people, seeing kids.”
As it gets closer to Christmas, Thoroughbred Street becomes progressively swamped with cheerful viewers. “It gets to be wall to wall people” said Russ, explaining that in the past, police have come on especially busy nights to direct traffic and to keep people moving through. Russ said that last year it was estimated that 15,000 people went through the street in a single night, and that it took cars an average of 4-5 hours to drive a car through the neighborhood.
As Christmas comes closer, Russ and Tracy give up all attempts to leave the house after 5:00 at night because of the traffic coming through. They both agreed that the numbers of people that come through can become a little overwhelming, but that they love being a part of it. “It’s like Disneyland,” said Tracy. “It’s just packed.”
Another resident on Thoroughbred Street, Adolfo, stood in his driveway with his wife under their outdoor heater, selling hot chocolate, churros, and homemade chocolate chip cookies. He said that a lot of people stick to the same theme and decoration layout every year, and explained that doing the same thing each year helps to cut down the decorating time. Adolfo went on to say that putting all of his lights and decorations up had taken him and his nephew Maury five eight-hour days to complete.
Brad Bosch, sophomore at Providence, has gone to see the lights for the past five years. He goes with his family and said that it is an important part of his Christmas because it’s a good bonding time with family and going to see the lights puts him into the festive Christmas spirit. He enjoys going because “it’s time to have with my family and to celebrate Christmas.”
So for those who will be in California during Christmas and might be having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit without snow, going to see the lights on Thoroughbred Street might be exactly what you need.