Hanukkah lights… on the lawn

It is the first week of December and all around Brooklyn, New York there are houses and businesses festooned with decorations for Christmas. There is also at least one house decked out with Hanukkah decorations.
This corner house is in a quiet part of the Mill Basin neighborhood of south-eastern Brooklyn. Located at Avenue T and East 64th Street, its collection of Hanukkah-themed pieces has been growing in a matter of days. I first drove by it on Friday afternoon with my younger daughter, and we noticed that it had a huge inflatable and illuminated white bear, wearing a blue kippa and blue sweater, and holding a big white dreidel. Next to it is a big inflatable and lit-up white menorah, with candles of various shades. A few strings of blue and white lights are attached to the metal fence that wraps the property. There is a fully lit menorah in one window. As my daughter and I stopped to take photographs, a child peered through one of the house windows, peeking from behind a curtain.
I stopped by again on Sunday morning and saw that they had added more to the layout: several colorful, holiday-themed posters hanging from the white picket fence on the side street, handmade posters in second floor windows, a banner that reads “KEEP CALM AND EAT LATKES”, a big banner in the front features Disney characters with Hanukkah ritual items, more blue-white dreidels set into the front lawn, and other light-up decorations. Is this family reveling in the fun and glory of the holiday season? Are they merely mimicking the customs of their Christian neighbors? Are they trailblazing Jewish homesteaders or copycats? Jews love to debate this kind of thing, and it certainly does attract attention.
This is not the first Hanukkah House in the area. Another family that lived a few blocks away, also on Avenue T, used to create a vivid Hanukkah display. For fifteen years they did this until their house sustained considerable damage, due to Hurricane Sandy in late October 2012. According to an article the family wrote, and posted at freewebs.com/brooklynchanukahhouse, “The miracle of Chanukah is supposed to be publicized…We have just taken it a step further…We are happy that what we have done has been received so positively.” Thus a nearby house has taken up the cause of Hanukkah embellishment.
Many people are delighted by the holiday lights and crafts while others view it as “goyishe taam,” Christian fashion. My family and I have found it cute but tacky, and decided to get it on the trend. A few years ago my father cut out dreidels from wood and attached thin poles to them, and my girls drew on these. We stuck them into the lawn. I also array twinkling lights and light-up menorahs in the windows and on the bushes, and stick decorations to the screen door. Last year, when Thanksgiving and Hanukkah coincided, I took four turkey dolls, sewed kippot to their heads, and set them on plant boxes by our front windows. My younger daughter has asked for a big Hanukkah bear as well, but our lawn is too small. Alas.
The Hanukkah house movement may be tiny, but it is fun and in the spirit of the season. And that reminds me, I have to dig out the decorations from our garage…