by Angelica Martinez
A “California Christmas” is celebrated at the corner of Filmore and Lemon in the city of Chino where hundreds of light bulbs give life to the houses lit up throughout the city streets.
For nearly two decades, neighbors have volunteered to decorate their homes for the holidays. According to resident Gary Chamberlain, 19 years ago, he began to decorate his home full of bright lights and Christmas decorations to compete with another neighbor.
“We had a little competition going between neighbors,” said Chamberlain.
Eventually, other homes caught on to the competitive spirit, and today, people from across the nation come to walk through the streets and participate in the Christmas spirit.
Chamberlain, whose house is the “perfect location at the end of the block,” can be seen off the 60 freeway. Passersby get a glimpse of the 65-foot tree tower he puts up yearly. His home features a rotating carousel, lights and stuffed Christmas characters.
Although the time spent putting up the lights takes “a week off [Chamberlain’s] work schedule,” the planning process for the tree tower took five years, according to Chamberlain.
“I had to figure out how to put it up safely with the weather conditions in mind. It literally took five years to figure out, but it has been here since,” Chamberlain said.
As Christmas grows closer, crowds increase in size. Traffic is stopped by city police and only pedestrians are allowed onto the blocks. Carolers, families and visitors follow decorated paths with wonder at the visions before them.
“I’ve talked to people from everywhere,” said Chamberlain. “I’ve talked to ladies from the east coast who say ‘I’ve never seen anything like this in my life.'” Chamberlain responded, “It is the way we do it here, it’s a California Christmas.”
Today, Chamberlain enjoys the large crowds who admire his home, as well as his neighbors’. Their enjoyment is worth the expense of a $450 electricity bill, said Chamberlain, chuckling.
He specifically remembers a couple who became engaged at the footsteps of his sidewalk. Since the couple’s engagement, they have made it a yearly tradition to return to the sidewalk steps and renew their vows. Chamberlain says his efforts are “well worthwhile.”
Lisa Masters, resident from Alta Loma has visited the Christmas lights for ten years and says she visits “at least twice a year. I think it is phenomenal.”
Homes featuring Christmas themes and holiday songs are especially enjoyed by the children.
Daniel Masters, 7, says he enjoys the lights and considers it “a Christmas Tradition” for his family.
The lights are on from 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m. on weekdays and from 5:30 p.m.-11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
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