Lights, Santa, Action!

Illustration by Michael Cho.

Illustration by Michael Cho.

At dusk on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, John Ragno stands by a switch with the power to completely change the look of Otis Street in East Somerville. 10…9…8…7…

All at once, thousands of red, white, and green lights make his duplex shine; two-foot candy canes dazzle along the chainlink fence; a gaggle of angels glows holy; and garish inflatable figurines brighten the small yard.

Travel anywhere in the Boston area and you’ll catch displays big and small. Of course, what they look like will depend on which neighborhood you’re in. The crisp and professional lights along Beacon Hill are a nice contrast to the haphazard arrangements on the Common. (Seriously, are the park workers getting into the ’nog before stringing up the lights?) Over in Central Square, the rows of festive dancing figures are nondenominational to the point of endearment — or confusion. The vibe in J.P. is captured by an Arborway home that boasts the Star of David, the Crown of Christ, and a bunch of reindeer. The old-timers in the North End show their dedication to tradition by trotting out the same tinsel garlands they’ve had since the ’70s, and of course, the aforementioned Somerville is what one staffer calls a “Yuletide Vegas.”

Like magi following a star, you can tell where you are by the lights alone.