If you find yourself in the Boston area over the holidays, do not miss Somerville's OTT holiday displays! The Somerville Illuminations Tour, sponsored by the Somerville Arts Council, guides you to the best homes. My friend and I walked over to a little neighborhood filled with Blockbuster Traditional Homes, where the name of the game is the light-up nativity.

The Illuminations Tour tradition continues

Somerville’s glorious annual Illuminations Tour never disappoints, even when scaled back for these strange times. Sponsored by the Somerville Arts Council, the tour highlights homes decked out in eye-popping (sometimes literally) splendor. I look forward to it every year.

“Blockbuster Traditional Homes”: the Illuminations Tour’s true treasures

This year’s tour kicked off on Thursday and runs through early January, and last night, one of my dear friends and I walked over to Inman Square to check out some of the “Blockbuster Traditional Homes” located on the side streets between Inman and Union Squares.

The Beacon Street Nativity

This neighborhood specializes in outdoing each other for the best light-up nativity. If you don’t see the light here, you never will. On the way, we took in the display on Beacon Street in front of the row houses. Here, we have the traditional light-up creche scene, set in a winter wonderland of snowmen. While not an official home on the tour, don’t miss this one.

Light-up winter wonderland nativities

However, the true magic happened once we turned up Houghton Street, where the Illuminations Tour “Blockbuster Traditional Homes” map markers are legion. Here, we have musical light-up shrubbery, Santa and Mrs. Claus accompanied by saints, and all manner of light up baby Jesuses.

Except for one home, where the light-up baby Jesus has not yet appeared, because it is not yet Christmas. My friend and I did observe that Mary should have still looked pregnant, but we imagine that light-up plastic pregnant Marys might be hard to find.

While the hard-plastic vintage creche figures are virtually identical (we did find one unique light-up Baby Jesus), the magic is in the displays. Which sometimes have musical accompaniment. There, we find homemade mangers, and arrangements. Some with stars, and some without. Most with Santas and snowmen, but others strictly religious. Glorious, all.

Someday, the inflatables are going to be as classic as the light-up plastic things

Winding around Springfield Street, the glory continues, punctuated by the Christmas Llama and Frosty the Inflatable Snowman. Awestruck passersby stopped to admire the displays, oohing, ahing (and giggling). “Someday, those inflatables are going to be as classic as those light-up plastic things.”

Feeling wistful after the Illuminations Tour

Heading back to my apartment for wine and a movie (the Witch, that classic Christmas story), I found myself a little wistful. Those blockbuster holiday displays are remnants of an old Somerville that will fade away, with the disappearance of the bathtub saints.

Until then, though, I’ll always make the pilgrimage.

Find the map for the Illuminations Tour holiday homes on the Somerville Arts Council site.

Does your town go all-out for the holidays? Let me know in the comments!

Update 2023

The Somerville Illuminations tour starts 9 December for the self-guided tour. A bike tour will take place on 16 December. Check the Somerville Arts Council (SAC), for more details.