Maryann and Anthony Duva spend weeks each year assembling a holiday lights display for children in their Biscayne Park neighborhood.
They don’t have children of their own, but they’ve been adorning their home with ropes of light and inflatable Santas and Christmas trees for 10 years now at 11625 NE 8th Ave., attracting neighbors and even people from outside their small village to come take pictures and enjoy the display.
The investment — hours of a assembly and an extra $200 to $300 on the electric bill — is worth it for the Duvas.
“It’s our holiday gift to the neighborhood,” said Maryann Duva, 56. “It makes us happy, but it also makes people in the community happy.”
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In recent years, the lights display has become a symbol of a promise they made to each other a few years ago when Anthony Duva fell seriously ill. With his kidneys failing, Maryann offered one of hers to save her husband. She turned out to be a match, and Anthony Duva is still with us today.
“Ever since then, our motto has been to grab life and make the most of it,” she said.
So every holiday season, they throw themselves into their holiday lights. The decorating process begins in November. More than 5,000 lights are woven through hedges and bushes. Seventeen inflatable figures, including Snoopy and Woodstock sitting on a red doghouse, snowmen and a Christmas tree, are anchored to the lawn.
And they like to mix it up each season.
“Each year we get new decorations,” Duva said.
The Duva home is one of several spots in Miami-Dade to see some holiday cheer. From elaborate arrangements of lights and ornaments in shopping centers to homespun displays in neighborhoods, the holiday season inspires eye-catching decorations across the county.
The San Martin home
For more than 30 years now, Carlos San Martin has found inspiration for his Christmas displays from ornaments and cute designs on wrapping paper.
The 73-year-old uses his creativity and carpentry skills to build some of his own pieces for the presentation, including an igloo with penguins around it and a family of snow people standing on the roof.
It takes about three weeks for him, his wife and his daughter to arrange the lights, which are on from 6:30 to 10 each night at 1930 SW 57th Place near the city of West Miami.
San Martin said he takes a lot of pride in his home’s decorations, which involved regular fixes, including trips to the store for more lights and touchups on his woodwork.
Overall, he just wants to please visitors who drive by.
“I enjoy the holidays, and I enjoy the displays,” he said.
Enchanted Place of North Miami
Neighbors living on 137th Terrace east of Northeast 16th Avenue in North Miami pitch in to light up their street during the holidays.
Hundreds of thousands of lights crawl up tree trunks and onto the branches, creating a colorful, bright canopy hanging over the road.
Ken DiGenova, 63, has been a part of the effort for more than 25 years, which is a collaboration of the residents living on the cul-de-sac.
“Each neighbor buys their own lights,” he said. “Everybody pays their own electric bills.”
The street is lit up from 6 to 11 each night through Jan. 6. From Dec. 18 through Christmas Eve, Santa will be there from 7:30 to 10:30 p.m.
“If you sit out there, you have people say how beautiful this is,” DiGenova said. “We try to make people happy.”
The Caine home
Nick Caine has turned his family home’s extravagant display, with streams of lights and several inflatables, into philanthropy.
It started with his home at 1880 NE 181st St. Now, the 19-year-old got the whole block decorated, and he raises money for the Make-A-Wish-Foundation. Every night until Jan. 1, the lights shine bright, and he sells popcorn, mini-doughnuts and funnel cakes from 6 until 10:30 p.m.
The Upshaw home
Logan, the elf on the Upshaw family’s shelf, moves around the bright arrangement of Christmas trees, snow people and candy canes that light up the front yard at 14205 SW 156th Terr. in Southwest Miami-Dade
“He moves around the display every few nights to keep watch for good girls and boys,” Michelle Upshaw said.
The family spends a week setting up the display, which debuts Dec. 1 and gets taken down Jan. 1.
Each night, the lights turn on from 6 to 11 with holiday music. On Christmas Eve, the display shines through the night (the music turns off at 11 p.m. out of respect for the neighbors).
The Alduncin home
About 50,000 lights adorn the Alduncin household during the holidays — all put in place by 73-year-old Angel Alduncin.
He has spent a few months setting up his display at 9241 SW 70 St., which includes a 10-foot Santa robot, a Christmas village with a train going around it and several lighted trees.
A new addition this year: Santa in a large helicopter with moving propellers — all done in lights.
In the atrium near Bloomingdale’s, an oversized stack of gifts, teddy bears and candy canes climb nearly three stories high in a large display at Santa’s Village.
The large display, which features a light and sound show every hour, was designed by Venue Arts’ Stephen Stefanou. The designer has created displays for Rockefeller Center in New York, the Bellagio in Las Vegas, and the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
For those dreaming of a white Christmas, the Dolphin Mall has snow flurries at its winter wonderland at Ramblas Plaza each night at 7 p.m.
Thursday through Sunday, more snow falls at 9 p.m. The nightly event continues until Jan. 3. There will be no snow Dec. 24-25, Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.