Homes for the Holidays
What is it about the Christmas season that makes December feel so grand? It could be the time spent with family, or the fact that most of us get a break from work. Perhaps it’s the abundance of Christmas cookies.
For me, this holiday is partly about the music. (I am a consummate fan of the Christmas Album by Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass Band and Vince Guaraldi Trio's A Charlie Brown Christmas.) Also, my birthday is Christmas Day — which I should be more excited about, but somehow these big events are starting to run together these days. My favorite winter phenomenon is actually the elaborate Christmas displays that adorn people's homes across the city.
When I was a kid, my parents would drive my family around town every year to check out creative Christmas scenes. I continue that tradition to this day. Though the light displays are much smaller in San Francisco than on the East Coast where I grew up, there’s still plenty of attention to detail here — with special lights, prop presents, Santas, and even a Betty Boop among the arrangements.
I had the opportunity to photograph a few locals who are behind the most striking Christmas displays in the city. I met Tom and Jerry, whose famous residence is situated above Dolores Park; Bob, Dennis, Richard, and Maria who live in an impossible-to-miss place on Hayes; and Mick and Taylor, who have become well-known for their "Wish List to Santa."
I captured these fascinating characters inside their homes in order to juxtapose their personal living spaces and their dazzling Christmas displays. In the process, we swapped holiday stories and they opened up about their decorating process, as well as the satisfaction they get when a child squeals with delight at their work.
These holiday projects are incredibly labor intensive and expensive, but as both Tom and Bob explained to me, when it comes down to it, it's all about giving back to San Francisco. How’s that for the spirit of the season?
To see more photos of these houses, check out our Flickr page
you’d prefer gazing at these holiday homes in person, you can visit Tom
& Jerry’s place at 3690 21st St. (at Church). Both Bob & Dennis
and Richard & Maria live at 1179 Hayes St. (at Masonic). Mick &
Taylor's "Wish List to Santa" can be found at 262 Sanchez St. (at
A few other homes I wasn’t able to profile (but I’d suggest visiting) are at 68 Castro St., and in St. Francis Wood (at Monterey Blvd.) in the Sunset, where the entire area is loaded with ornate Christmas setups.