TORRANCE, Calif. — Despite the rumors, there’s not actually a requirement for homeowners to dress up their homes for the holidays in the quiet, secluded Seaside neighborhood of South Torrance. But it’s not unheard of for decorations to pass from one homeowner to the next.
“There’s no obligation,” Tricia Blanco said, laughing at the question. “But everyone, when they buy in that six or so square blocks that’s the epicenter of the light display, certainly knows about it.”
Blanco and her family have lived in Seaside for about 34 years, moving in only a few years after one family began circulating a flyer asking neighbors to decorate the elm trees that lined the core of neighborhood: a tightly-winding, narrow-streeted area affectionately known by many as “Sleepy Hollow.”
At its core, Blanco said, the neighborhood display was about stringing lights from elm to elm, though it wasn’t long before neighbors would take inspiration from “Christmas Vacation" and go Full Griswold. Nowadays, the homes joining in on the Seaside Holiday Light display have become elaborate celebrations of everything from the season’s formal religious holidays to the championships of the Dodgers and the Chicago Cubs (a subject that, to some true believers, is no less serious than Sunday mass).
The Seaside Holiday Lights display is but one of many that will brightly dot the Southland this holiday season. Though these neighbors join together in a tradition that’s been decades in building, many folks are happy to participate on their own, decorating their homes with hundreds, or even thousands, of small, twinkling light bulbs.
According to an oft-cited Smithsonian Magazine story detailing the history of Christmas lights, somewhere around 150 million holiday light sets are sold each year in America. The lights got their start as a replacement to tree candles in the 1800s, when Edward Johnson — a business partner of Thomas Edison — strung a line of 80 red, white and blue bulbs around a tree. His trees, and their lights, would become an attraction and advertisement. By 1894, President Grover Cleveland had electric lights strung around the White House Christmas tree; the lights became commonplace by the 1930s.
Back in Torrance, the Seaside Holiday Light display has spanned generations; Blanco’s sons grew up with the displays and now take their own children to enjoy the lights. As the president of the Seaside Neighborhood Association, Blanco notes that this year marks a bit of change to the tradition, with both the adoption of the “Seaside” name over the “Sleepy Hollow” moniker, and the creation of a social media suite publicizing the neighborhood event.
Blanco made a few warnings clear: theirs is a neighborhood event, not a city-sponsored event; many amenities, including restrooms, are not available to visitors. Outside vendors are discouraged from selling there, and parking is also limited around the core of the display.
Traffic is expected to be heavy in the area. SNA board members have attributed the growth in attention (and the tremendous traffic) to social media. Blanco said that, at its greatest, the holiday event has attracted as many as 5,000 cars in one night from folks all across Southern California.
But the lights are often worth any consternation, Blanco said.
“People are trying to put out their good vibes into the world, so it’s hard to be unhappy when you wander around the lights,” Blanco said.
The Seaside Holiday Lights will begin to go live Thanksgiving weekend, and most will continue to be up through Jan. 1. For more information, visit seasideholidaylights.com.
Do you want your home, your neighborhood or your friends’ holiday lights featured on Spectrum News 1? On Dec. 15 at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m., Spectrum News 1 will feature holiday light displays from around the Southland on "An Elvin Holiday Bright Lights Special.” Fill out the form below for a chance to be featured.