Greek-American Christmas Display with 320,000 Festive Lights in Brooklyn

BROOKLYN – The cameraman from the TV channel who visited to take pictures of the Christmas light display at Isidoros and Anna Bilarikis’ house in Brooklyn was disappointed.

“Do it quickly, because from time to time all the lights might be turned off, because I did not pay the electricity bill,” Mr. Bilarikis told him as soon as he saw him getting ready on the opposite sidewalk. He hurried to grab and prepare the camera, but, he did not make it. The lights went out and he whispered in frustration that “we came for nothing.”

Isidoros Bilarikis laughed and pressed the button again on the small wireless device he had in his pocket. His house was lit up again with thousands of colorful lights, like a fairy tale.

Isidoros and Anna Bilarikis in their home decorated for Christmas. Photo: Kostas Bej

This is not the first time that Bilarikis has made that joke, when hundreds of tourists and other visitors arrive by bus and private cars every night outside his house to admire and photograph it. Sometimes he approaches wearing the famous red Santa Claus hat and many ask him to take a photo with them.

This year, Bilarikis decorated the exterior of the house, from the sidewalk, up to the windows, balconies and roof, with more than 320,000 colorful lights, he told The National Herald. “All these years, I have spent a fortune buying them,” he said with a laugh.

On December 3, he played the same joke on a Fox News crew, then on a German TV crew about a week later. The following night, a TV station helicopter flew for several hours over the illuminated house, taking pictures from all sides, and of the people who admired it and the cars that were lined up on the street. A British TV crew also covered the Christmas display. Live broadcasts were also done by the Hellenic Radio and Television (ERT), as well as the “Open” channel, Bilarikis said.

Years ago, the house was honored as the best light display in the area. The New York Times had written about it, and for three consecutive years published photos of his house at Christmas time.

The Bilarikis’ home is in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, at 7112 14th Avenue, between 71st and 72nd Streets. The area is well-known for elaborate annual Christmas displays.

Preparations start in early December, sometimes in mid-November. For some years climbing ladders to reach the top of the house, he risked falling, or something worse, happening to him. “Fortunately, nothing bad happened to me this year, thank God,” he said. “Some of the assistants I had were scared, however, and refused to go up the ladder.”

One year, he reached the edge of his tall house, climbing the ladder one rung at a time, and stayed there, at 42 feet, trying to install colored lanterns. His assistant had complained and urged him to come down.

“It is true that I was scared,” Bilarikis told TNH. “Thinking that I was hanging in the air, I broke out in a cold sweat. I don’t know how and why, but I risked it. Thank God, everything went well, without anything unpleasant happening.”

A bus pulls up to the Bilarikis’ home so visitors can takes photos of the Christmas light display in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn. Photo: Kostas Bej

Outside the house, festive music and wishes are heard through loudspeakers, while in previous years they were transmitted with a low-power transmitter to the radios of cars passing through the area.

On the front of the house, in two illuminated signs there are the wishes in Greek and English “Merry Christmas” and “Happy New Year.”

On the roof there are other large bright decorations like open fans, as well as a tall Christmas tree with a star at the top, which can be seen from the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge that connects Brooklyn to Staten Island.

Another fantasy world awaits the visitor as soon as he passes through the main front gate. Once inside, they will admire a tall Christmas tree, brightly lit with 21,600 lights, surrounded by gifts. Left and right, there are festive decorations. Characteristic are the hand-made landscapes, with mountains, plains and villages, from which beautiful little trains come and go.

Isidoros Bilarikis, a contractor by profession, comes from Pyrgi of Chios. He and his wife, Anna, have three children, Kalliopi, Giannis, and Nikos.


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