Rita Mae Cushman’s family starts hauling out the boxes and boxes and boxes of Christmas lights on Aug. 19 -- her late father’s birthday -- so they’ll be ready for Santa and the crowds the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
By the time Santa arrives at 2:15 p.m. on Nov. 28, in a fire truck from the East Dedham station, 121 Garfield Road will be decorated to the max -- with plastic Santas and elves, skiing penguins and kissing penguins, reindeer, carolers, a gingerbread house, two nativity scenes, cartoon characters, angels, music, and thousands of lights.
“We have a little bit of everything,” Cushman said this week, in more than a little bit of an understatement.
The holiday display is so spectacular that it’s advertised on the town’s webpage, and most local politicians plan to show up for what Cushman thinks is the 38th year of the annual event.
“Mrs. Claus” serves hot chocolate and cookies, and families come from all over town to walk around the yard and ooh and aah. Weather permitting, the display is open to the public from 4:30 to 10 p.m. -- 11 p.m. on Christmas Eve, when Mrs. Claus brings out the hot chocolate again -- through Dec. 26.
Santa will be back on Dec. 12 and 19, from 5 to 7 p.m., and on Dec. 23, from 6 to 8 p.m.
“A couple of thousand people come,” Cushman said. “We had one lady come from China. She came after 10 o’clock, so I turned the lights back on. She ran around and took pictures.”
Cushman said the display started small, with two trees strung with lights and Santa on the roof.
They planted about a dozen more trees so they could string more lights, and added a Santa in a chair, in front of a nativity set in the front yard. That’s when Cushman’s husband, Lloyd, and sons built a sleigh for Santa to sit in, she said. They also built a ski slope for the penguins.
“Each year, we try to add something,” she said. This year, she’s put in some more penguins, two ducks and “a couple more nutcrackers in the back of the yard for the boys in the military.”
Getting the display ready is a family and neighborhood affair.
Cushman’s mother, Robertha Civitarese, tests the Christmas lights. Her husband, who is in the tree business, brings home a bucket truck to put them up, starting on Columbus Day weekend. Her sister and twin nieces help get out the statues and other pieces, as do friends and neighbors.
The holiday lights make for a hefty electric bill, but she doesn’t mind, Cushman said. She gets joy from watching all the happiness others get from her yard.
“I don’t drink, I don’t smoke. I used to go shopping twice a week, and I don’t do that anymore. So, as I said to my husband, this is my pleasure,” she said.
Johanna Seltz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.