The Garabedian family has been creating this display since 1973, and today, Linda and Gary Garabedian, brother and sister, carry on the tradition. They spend all year creating decorations to adorn their own house with, building all the figures from scratch using a multiple-step fiberglass molding process that they learned from a local priest when they were both children.
Although the pair now run the house, the tradition began with their mother, Ellie, who was a seamstress and dressmaker for Dior in Marseille, France. After teaching her kids to sew and make clothing, they worked on the house together as a family and have many positive memories of sharing this Christmas tradition.
They started by making smaller dolls, which can be seen in Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You video, and have since progressed to making life-sized dolls with moveable parts. They also make all the clothing that the dolls wear, and operate another business where they make quinceañera dresses and custom gowns for fancy occasions.
Their sister, who sadly passed away, created most of the soundtracks which play in their yard after dark. She was a big fan of Engelbert Humperdinck, and his music features heavily in the music you hear driving by.
The Garabedians are a very religious family and their favorite figures in the display are the baby Jesus and the rest of the nativity scene, which is displayed higher up on the outside of their home. However, they enjoy mixing pop culture figures in with the religious iconography, and have noticed that children react particularly well to figures such as Alvin and the Chipmunks.
Every day at around 4:30 pm, fans gather outside the fence to watch Linda and Gary set up their Christmas display, and pull all the figures out of their home. The Garabedians take everything inside every night, and put it out again every afternoon. Unfortunately, this year Linda and Gary were in a bad car accident. Their progress on the house has been a bit delayed, however, they continue to work every day to create the magic that they are known for.
Gary says that the most rewarding part of the work he and Linda do to maintain the Christmas house is the children’s reactions. Their excitement is worth all the work required to make their house the destination it is today.
The Garabedian house is not your typical house decorated for Christmas—you won’t see any string lights adorning the property. Rather, it’s a cult favorite of New Yorkers and visitors alike, a quintessential destination in NYC around Christmastime. There’s no fee to visit, although many throw money into the yard to thank them for their hard work and unique artistry. They donate all proceeds to church-sponsored charities; this year it’s going to support children with diabetes.
The easiest way to reach the Garabedian house is by car, although to get there by foot, one can take the 6 train to the end of the line and then walk 20 minutes.