This year it feels like the holiday season is rushing away a little too quickly. Christmas may be over, but the winter season has just started. If you, like me, love seeing houses lit up against cold nights; the conviviality of friends and good food; the cheery decorations, pine smells, and warm greetings, you are in luck because our people, the ones who decorate to the hilt and then hang around their houses night after night to talk to strangers of all generations and absorb their joy, tend to leave their decorations up as long as possible and linger in the season’s cheer.
In my neck of the woods, there is a house that is stunningly decorated, and — most incredibly — welcomes people, inside and out. Novato, CA’s Rombeiro family begins decorating on Labor Day each year and doesn’t start dismantling their creation until Kings’ Day, January 6th.
Here’s hoping your neighborhood affords you fun light displays. It’s always stirring to see such unique and joyful creativity on display and to see so many people, in groups large and small, experiencing simple awe and warm community.
The Lights of the Valley web site is a fantastic resource for holiday light displays all around Northern California.
Rombeiro House, 34 Devonshire Drive, Novato
The granddaddy of Marin County’s decorated houses, The Rombeiro House has been a family tradition for us since our daughter was small, and for the Rombeiros for 18 years. I know of nothing else like it. “Labor of Love” only scratches the surface of the intense effort that Ed Rombeiro and his family put out every year.
The Rombeiros greet everyone who comes to their house, every night from early December to January 6. And they welcome them inside their home, where people walk, sometimes in slow-moving lines, from room to decorated room.
The family sacrifices living quarters and sleeping quarters. Nearly every surface is covered with charming displays of animatronic and wonderfully themed snowmen, elves, santas, angels, penguins, bears, wise men, reindeer, and toys.
There’s even a whole room that is transformed into a model train tableau.
It is said that the Rombeiros use more than 100,000 lights and that 39,000 people come through the home to experience its magic each year. (There’s a collection box outside to help the family with their electric bill.) We usually get a hello, a goodbye, or both from Ed Rombeiro, who told us that the tradition of extensive holiday decorations (perhaps not this extensive) originated in his family’s native country the Azores. The Rombeiro House web site has directions and hours. It is open through January 6th.
Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman