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A Light Christmas

Snow, schmow. Here in the subtropics, we create a festive holiday feel by cranking up the wattage. We string lights on our palm trees, our pool decks, our pleasure boats. And then there are the flying dinosaurs, the unicorn, and a fire-breathing dragon.

Of course, you probably won't see these bulb-adorned creatures in your neighbor's yard. Instead, they and their glow-in-the-dark pals are among about 100 displays featured in the ninth annual Holiday Fantasy of Lights at Tradewinds Park in Coconut Creek.

You can set your radio to play holiday songs and cruise the two-mile route, which features scenes created with white, red, green, yellow, and blue lights. Some displays are even animated: The princess's hair blows in the breeze, a circus acrobat walks on a tightrope, boys play under a blimp, wheels turn on the coach that's pulled by a unicorn.

Other displays include an American flag, a Golden Gate-style bridge over a pond, a scene with sailboats, a lighthouse, and even a quaint Victorian-style business district featuring a bakery, a candy store, and a teddy-bear shop.

Folks line up even before the park opens in the evenings, according to Mike Egezeino, one of eight electricians on the crew. He's worked the event each year since it began. "You hear the kids singing,'' he said. "You see people taking pictures. The people love it. They really love it."

According to Egezeino, the Fantasy of Lights involves the work of dozens of staffers, more than a million light bulbs, 1000 amps of power, and at least 70,000 feet of power cords.

All this decorating business started with just a simple Christmas tree lined with candles to create a festive, beautiful inferno waiting to happen. That tradition got its start centuries ago, probably somewhere in Germany, though no one seems to agree exactly when or who started it. Was it Saint Boniface in the Seventh Century? Or Martin Luther in the 16th? Whatever the case, the first modern Christmas tree on record was in 1521 in Alsace. Princess Helene de Mecklembourg carried the tradition from there to Paris. The idea was a massive success in Paris and, that being the cultural center of much of Europe, it became so popular throughout the country that it started a campaign of defoliation from which France has never quite recovered. Once the trees were gone, there was little to do except start decorating other things. And today, we see the result, the final glittering evolution.

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Patti Roth

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