In addition, the neighborhood buys 13,000 lunch bags from area supermarkets and collects three pickups full of sand donated by the R.J. Noble Co., a road-building company with a construction yard near the tract.
All day on the 24th, neighbors scoop sand from piles dumped on strategic corners, put a couple of inches of it in each bag, plop in the candles and turn down the top edges of the bags to make cuffs that add rigidity.
By dusk every street in the small tract is lined with luminaria on both curbs and the inside edges of the sidewalks; most of the homes have luminaria leading to their front doors as well. All other lights in the tract are turned off, the candles are lit, and the scene is set for a breathtaking Christmas Eve experience.
To get there: Take the Orange (57) Freeway to Lincoln Avenue, take Lincoln east to Rio Vista Street and then head south. The tract is entered by turning west onto Allen Place--and then just follow the luminaria. Neighbors suggest parking outside the tract and walking through it as the best way to get the full impact.
Hours: 5 p.m. until the candles burn out, Christmas Eve only.
The houses on the 7300 and 7400 blocks of Dallas Drive in La Palma vie annually with the homes around Fountain Valley's Dahlia Circle for the informal title of Orange County's most elaborately decorated neighborhood.
Things start on Dallas in October when some of the families drag out their lights and began testing them and replacing burned-out bulbs. Installation of the thousands of strands of lights, the animated Christmas characters, candy canes, ice-skating elves, reindeer, mangers and other flora and fauna of the season takes up most of November, and the lights go on at the beginning of December.
Residents Gary and Jan Hite, who started it all five years ago (and this year are selling their house--no Grinches need apply), say they do it for the smiles from passersby.
To get there: take the Riverside (91) Freeway to the Orangethorpe Avenue off-ramp, go a half-block west to Walker Avenue, turn south for about a mile to Houston Avenue. Turn west onto Houston; Dallas Drive is the first cross street you'll come to.
Hours: Dusk until 10 p.m., through Christmas.
DENNI STREET TRIO
Decorating on the 9900 block of Denni Street in Cypress began six years ago with when Robert and Maria Fisher hoisted a plywood Santa onto their rooftop. The next year the couple added several reindeer, and Robert Fisher made plywood cutouts of the three Wise Men for a neighbor.
"It all kind of snowballed from there," Maria Fisher said.
There are only three houses this stretch of Denni, but they burn enough electricity at night to put the dynamo at Hoover Dam on overtime. The lights outline rooftops, Christmas scenes with cutout characters and a host of other decorations. "We all add some new thing each year," Fisher said.
To get there: Take Ball Road to Denni Street, turn north and the three houses are at the corner, facing Veterans Park.
Hours: Dusk until 9:30 p.m., through Jan. 1.
Huntington Harbour, that is.
The luxury home development at the north edge of Huntington Beach was built on a series of manufactured canals and sold in the early 1960s as an alternative to Newport Beach. As a result, a lot of people there live in waterfront homes and have boats. And when you have boats at Christmas, you have boat parades and lots of lights on the waterfront homes.
The Huntington Harbour Christmas boat parade is over. But equally viewable are the myriad homes in the community that have laid on decorations with a lavish and sometimes professional hand. A commercial boat tour of the lights is offered four times a night through Wednesday, but you also can drive or walk through the community, detouring up the side streets leading to the canals to view the decorated waterfront facades of the houses.
To get there: Take Warner Avenue west to Pacific Coast Highway, then go north about a mile to Coral Cay Lane and turn right. Coral Cay leads onto one of the six separate "islands" that make up Huntington Harbour. A good map of the area will show you routes to the others.
Hours: Dusk until 10 p.m., through Christmas.
Also known as "Those houses off Heil," this Fountain Valley neighborhood is perennially on the short list for best decorated.
Things started on Dahlia Circle in 1970 but have spread to surrounding streets. This year, neighbors estimate, 75 or more of the homes in the neighborhood bordered by Heil and Edinger avenues and Brookhurst and Bushard streets are participating.
The area gets so many visitors that Fountain Valley police began erecting barricades several years ago and allow only foot traffic into the tract from 5-10 p.m. during the season, which lasts until Dec. 26.
Ann DePierro and her husband, Dennis, have lived on Dahlia since the beginning and have watched as the decorating spirit of the half-dozen homeowners there overflowed into the rest of the neighborhood.