We live a mile away from one of the most festive blocks in America. Come December, the residents of 34th Street in Hampden step into their roles as holiday extraordinaires and plug in their twinkle lights. But we aren’t talking about some regular string of bulbs across the gutter: 34th Street turns into a holiday wonderland, with more lights than you’d see in a neighborhood, let alone a single block.
The Miracle on 34th Street is a tradition that is now entering its 70th year. Residents of the 700 block of 34th Street, between Keswick and Chestnut Avenues, create intricate light displays for the public to enjoy. It features several classic homes that seniors are very familiar with and freshman will grow to love. Impressively, residents are not bound by any sort of contract or agreement to decorate. It’s probably safe to assume that, Christmas spirit aside, they keep to the status quo to avoid eternal shaming from their neighbors.
Houses on 34th range from flashy Disney displays to mellow Peace themes. Above the street, lights are strung between houses, creating a canopy of artificial stars.
The Peace household is draped in blue lights and international flags. Like many of the homes, it is non-denominational, a nice contrast to the nativity scenes that so often populate the average holiday decor.
The Hubcap House sports snowmen made of bicycle tires and a giant silver Christmas tree built of — you guessed it — hubcaps. This home screams environmentally aware, with fewer lights and a focus on creative reuse of materials.
Across the street is the ever-popular Natty Boh home. The deck is titled with a sign reading “From the House of Pleasant Living” with Mr. and Mrs. Boh lit up beneath. Who knew the frat-party favorite could be made so classy?
At the end of the street is the Crab House: a large crustacean hangs over the porch, created with an all-red string of lights. It’s a prime spot for that “Hey, I go to school in Baltimore!” picture. Your mom will love it.
The other great photo opportunity is just across the road on the other side. This is the Disney house, aggressively lit and chock-full of figurines. Windows are lined with stuffed animals in a cute (but borderline creepy) display, complete with snow. But it has a nice arch at the end of the walkway with a lit up “Merry Christmas” sign at the top. Plenty of kind strangers will be milling about should you need a friendly photographer.
34th Street draws thousands of visitors each year who come out to enjoy a concentrated dose of Christmas and holiday cheer. And a trip to Hampden is never wasted. There’s plenty to do before or after you see the lights. A trip past the Charmery for a hot chocolate featuring their homemade marshmallows is a must. Huge and square, they easily justify the sugar hit. Stroll down the avenue and stop into the boutiques to do a little Christmas shopping. Trohv sells many quirky gifts to fit the season, including uniquely Baltimore products like Kinderhook cookies.
It’s easy to get caught up in the craze of Hopkins even when the holidays roll around. Yes, you could spend every evening doing work or pretending to do work or partaking in “alternative” activities in an attempt to forget about your work. This December, take some time to be kind to yourself. Start a tradition, and enjoy the hectic happiness that millions of tiny twinkle lights bring.