A Christmas house to light up the holidays one last time in New Britain – Hartford Courant

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NEW BRITAIN – Before it gets dark for good, the Christmas House is gearing up for one last week of blazing lights, holiday decorations beyond imagination and charity for families in New Britain. Brittany.

“For people who always wanted to go but never did, this is the year to do it. And people who grew up with it and want to relive those old memories, it’s also to that time they should come,” Michelle Giancola said. .

And for those close to the late Rita Giancola, hosting a final screening of the massive production is a tribute to their family matriarch.

Giancola died in August at 91, ending a 37-year streak of giving New Britain its most beloved holiday tradition: the Lexington Street home known to tens of thousands of visitors as Christmas House.

What began for Giancola in the 1970s as a whimsical way to entertain family and neighbors during the holiday season has become a familiar and utterly unique pre-Christmas destination for generations of central Connecticut neighbors.

A few other landlords in the area staged more lavish and spectacular outdoor light shows, but even the malls couldn’t compete with the stunning Christmas extravaganza that Giancola created in every corner of his home.

“The (presentation) outside is a lot, but it’s really nothing compared to what she did inside,” said Michelle Giancola, granddaughter of Rita Giancola. “Everyone who came in just stopped at the door and couldn’t believe it. They were walking slower to see everything, the stairs and the hall, and they were going back to certain rooms to look at them again.”

Michelle Giancola grew up with Christmas House, along with her brother and sister, cousins, uncles, aunts, nieces and nephews. When she learned in August that she only had a few days left to live, Rita Giancola asked them to stage Christmas House for one last year.

Along with a few friends and one of Rita Giancola’s most loyal ballroom dancing students, the extended family has put together thousands of Santa Claus dolls, plastic reindeer, miniature sleighs, Nativity scenes, toy drums, Christmas trains and room-by-room elf workshops. Garlands, lights, and tiny hanging ornaments cover every wall.

“Everyone pitched in. We started coming at the weekend to ride it, then we realized there wouldn’t be enough time, so now it’s every day after work too – no one didn’t realize how long she put in there. There’s still boxes and boxes tidied up,” Michelle Giancola said.

The Giancolas invite the public to final visiting hours at Christmas House at 61 Lexington St.: Dec. 16-23, 6-9 p.m. There is no admission fee, but the family will continue Rita Giancola’s practice of asking each visitor for a donation of non-perishable food.

For nearly four decades, Christmas House has generated tons of food for St. Mark’s Episcopal Church’s emergency food pantry, the local Salvation Army and the Prudence Crandall Center for victims of domestic violence.

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When Giancola died, St. Mark’s volunteer Molly Sherman described her as “a light in the darkness” whose generosity contributed more than 3,000 pounds of food to her church’s food bank in 2015 alone. .

“Rita was a beautiful soul, a beautiful person inside and out,” Mayor Erin Stewart said Thursday night. “My family used to take me home for Christmas every year when I was a kid, at school we would go there on field trips.”

Police Chief James Wardwell summed up the thoughts of many residents who have come to rely on the festively decorated house opposite the New Britain Museum of American Art.

“Driving this time of year without seeing that display, I don’t know what it’s going to look like,” Wardwell said.

Local teacher Vanessa Barneschi is asking people to give something extra this year by leaving a blooming poinsettia in the lawn between the sidewalk and the street outside the Christmas House. Creating “Poinsettia Lane” will be a way to show gratitude for all that Giancola has done, Barneschi said.

Despite the death of her husband and three of her grown children, worsening arthritis and relentless advancing age, Giancola kept up the Christmas house tradition last year and planned the work of this year when she fell ill shortly before her death. Each December, she said her months of decorating paid off in two ways: seeing happy expressions as people entered the house and bringing food to the poor for the long winter ahead.

“None of us really knew how hard she worked on it. That’s how she still had dance students scheduled for the coming weeks, she had dances booked at the VFW ballroom for winter,” recalls Michelle Giancola. “She never let things get her down. She told us, ‘Keep moving, keep dancing,’ she always said that, all the time.”

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