Places that Matter

Christmas House

click on image for slideshow
overview of the house in daylight, Elena Martinez
overview of the house in daylight, Elena Martinez
Elena Martinez
Beauty and the Beast, Elena Martinez
Barbie Dolls, Elena Martinez
Statues on the roof, Elena Martinez
Rockets, Elena Martinez
Every year, this house is extensively adorned with hand-made holiday decorations
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Place Matters Profile

Every year, for the past 30 years, from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, the Garabedian family has decorated their home and property into a Winter Wonderland spectacle. Nearly one hundred figures make up the annual display, which is a combination of religious figures, Disney characters, Victorian-era characters, Christmas figures, ballroom dancers, and pop-culture icons. Their home, lit by more than 50,000 small lights at 37,000 volts, can be seen blocks away as one drives down Pelham Parkway.

It was Nellie Garabedian who started the tradition. Her daughter Ellie says the inspiration for the annual display is a family secret that they have never told to anyone. Ellie, along with her siblings, Gary and Linda, are all dressmakers by trade, and work at the family business Garabedian Trimming started by their grandfather. Family members carefully craft everything in the display by hand--the dolls (now made from fiberglass, but soon from easier-to-use vinyl), their costumes (only the finest faux fur is used for the dresses), and even the stages and props. Only the lights and Christmas tree are bought in a store.

The Christmas House display is a destination for those in the know. Every night of its yearly run, the street outside the Garabedians' house is filled with cars as people drive by to see the display and listen to holiday music pouring out from the family's loudspeakers. The house was even featured in Mariah Carey's video, "All I Want for Christmas." Many visitors throw money over the fence, a custom which started around the display's second year. The money is donated to a variety of charities including volcano and earthquake relief, AIDS organizations, World Trade Center victims, and for the last few years, to the Church of St. Teresa in the Bronx on behalf of children with diabetes. The performance ends each night when the dolls are brought inside to safeguard against inclement weather. Each morning they come out again.

The Garabedians were planning to celebrate their 30th year as the Christmas House with a special extravaganza almost twice as grand as normal--with the new figures modeled after celebrities--but that plan has been delayed until 2006. Family members work all-year-round to create the complex presentation, but they feel it is worth it. It's their Christmas gift to their community and a way of making the people of the Bronx feel special.

Sources

Bronx Times, December 23, 2004; Bronx Times, December 25, 2003; Bronx Press Review, December 1-8, 1999.