It is hard to pinpoint how far back the immense, extraordinary holiday light displays in Philadelphia date. Including strands of lights draped across streets, big inflatable Santa Claus and reindeer, wreaths dotting windows, and more, sprinkled throughout every neighborhood, this city has no shortage of holiday spirit.
There are a few blocks in particular that stand out among the swaths of holiday decor citywide. Some of these streets have been organizing these sizable exhibits for a couple decades, others have only joined in the festivities in that past ten years or so. Regardless, each block brings a unified, striking display to the revelry.
Just tucked away from the Passyunk Square action is the Miracle on South 13th Street. The 1600 block of South 13th Street between Tasker and Morris has risen to the top of the charts for holiday light displays. The entire block has organized over the years to include lights lining each house, draped between the rows, and wound around each tree, inflatable Santas, presents, and reindeer, wreaths and window displays, and the iconic electronic icicles.
After Travel + Leisure named the street a Top 50 Holiday Destination nationwide last year, even more attention was drawn to the already popular site. One result of this awareness is increased funding, most notably from Samsung.
The corporation gifted the block with its new SmartThings technology which means, for the first time ever, the entire block can be turned on and off at once, and certain displays are now motion sensored. This new technology helps to conserve energy and cut back on electric costs.
Far northeast of the Miracle on South 13th Street, another longtime contributor to the city’s holiday lights tradition also works on ways to cut the cost and environmental impact of their festivities. The residents of the 4200 block of Greeby Street in Philadelphia’s Tacony neighborhood have been rallying their holiday spirit into decadent light shows for around 17 years. These neighbors make use of energy efficient LED lights to allow the most over-the-top displays without placing too much burden on the environment or their wallets.
Some other popular blocks in Philadelphia that have come together to display holiday spirit through lights and decorations include, in South Philadelphia, the 2700 block of South Smedley Street and the same block of Colorado Street, and the 3500 block of Oakmont Street in Mayfair.
What all of the residents of these blocks have in common is the desire to bring the neighborhood together through holiday cheer. Many neighbors cite the tradition as a strong unifier in the immediate community and for the city as a whole. Some of these neighborhoods are especially diverse, and the lights and decorations provide a way for everyone to celebrate and enjoy the festivities together.
Another interesting element to these now very popular holiday attractions is the lasting effect the practice has on real estate values. Residents of South 13th Street and Smedley Street alike note that people move to these blocks because of the holiday customs. In fact, when a home on one of these blocks hits the market, a rare occurrence in the first place, it hardly lasts long at all before being claimed.
Photo in headline of the Miracle on South 13th Street by unexpectedphilablog.com.
For a more comprehensive visual of the Miracle on 13th Street, check out this video by Philadelphia filmmaker and photographer Cory J. Popp: