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A Street Shines with the ‘Miracle of Lights’

Jingle bells and Christmas trees. Houses and buildings covered with lights and ornaments. These are all part of the holiday season in the United States -- meant to boost people's spirits. This is especially true in one small neighborhood in the eastern U.S. state of Maryland -- where there is a unique tradition that the people there call "The Miracle of Lights". VOA's Melinda Smith narrates.

It is the time of year again when a block of 34th Street in Baltimore, Maryland, transforms itself into "The Miracle" -- as it is called in the community. Entire households in this little block in the Hampden neighborhood adorn their rooftops, lawns and porches with elaborate lights and animatronic displays.

Daniel Brewer has lived on the block for 20 years. "This is our 18th year," he says. "It's our gift to the community. It's our gift to the city. It's our gift to the all the people who come to see it, especially the children."

The collaborative gift, which has become one of the most famous and glittering attractions for the holiday season in Baltimore, strikes wonder in children and adults alike, and draws quite a crowd.

Joan Maenner, who lives in a nearby suburb, says her family has come to see the decorations every year for 11 years. "It is a family tradition and it is a Baltimore tradition. And it's just part of being in Baltimore. Come in here, be with everybody, lights and Christmas. Everybody is in a Christmas spirit."

Each household demonstrates its creativity: a Christmas tree made entirely of hubcaps; a lawn covered with teddy bears; decorations centered on a peace theme with the word "peace" in several languages under lines of flags.

The residents are not required to participate in the tradition but they do it willingly, says Jeanette Middlesworth, who moved into a 34th Street home four years ago. "Oh yeah, oh yeah. It was the decorating thing that I wanted to buy the house -- because of the tradition."

The block is lit up on the weekend after Thanksgiving. It stays lit every night from dusk until about 11 o'clock and all night on Christmas Eve. Long-time resident Sharon Burke is called the mayor of the neighborhood. She coordinates the neighbors' efforts. "Without working together this would have never happened. Everybody has worked together on this. And it made neighbors a lot closer. Since this has happened we know pretty much everybody by name."

Burke says the residents do have one concern. That is the complaints from near-by neighbors about the traffic jams caused by visitors. "But hey, it is only for six weeks out of the year. So it's worth every minute of it."

Burke says the amount of time the residents put into the decorations is nothing compared to the enjoyment that every one gets out of it.

And she says they are confident there is no better way to celebrate the holiday season than the "Miracle of Lights" in Hampden.