Kids who celebrate Christmas in the College Heights section of Wellesley really need to be on their best behavior this season: Wherever they go, Santa Claus is definitely watching as the result of a spirited neighborhood effort to populate yards with giant inflatables St. Nicks.
I counted about 20 puffy Santas (and a few prone, disheveled ones) on just Weston/Curve/Avon/Maurice, and sightings have been made beyond that on Crest, Howe, Ivy, Summit, Sunset, and other nearby streets.
Flyers reading “Santa Lights-Up College Heights” appeared in the neighborhood before Thanksgiving that encouraged people to purchase and display the mainly 9-foot-high Santas. A kickoff inflating/lighting party and stroll complete with cookies and hot chocolate took place on Nov. 29.
Meagan Occhialini says inspiration for organizing the community decorating spectacular came from a Toronto street dubbed “Kringlewood” that has made giant inflatables of the jolly old elf a tradition.
This festive Wellesley neighborhood, which already bonds via events such as block parties and progressive dinners, didn’t need much urging to get on board. There’s speculation that the run on inflatable Santas at Home Depot might have been the doing of College Heights residents.
Occhialini, who previously was strictly a backyard inflatables decorator, said “the idea was really to get in the spirit and put smiles on people’s faces.” The neighborhood might even be in the running for one of the town’s holiday house decorating awards.
Participant Lisa Neighbors, who became an inflatable convert this past Thanksgiving, says the neighborhood was “Wellesley appropriate” in its previous holiday decorating: Nice but nothing that you’d necessarily go out of your way to view. The Santas have been a fun, community-building endeavor, she said.
Blow-up decorations may not be the most Wellesley of aesthetics, Occhialini acknowledged, though neighbors have had a laugh about going all-out with the inflatables vs. getting fancy by hiring people to light up their trees and homes.
For newcomers to inflatables, there has been a learning curve. There’s the question of whether to keep the Santas full of air around the clock, for example, or risk having them flattened in rainstorms.
Occhialini adds: “You need to secure them, the wind will take them in funny directions. We’ve had a couple of wild Santas, a couple of bad Santas in the neighborhood.”
For the most part, though, the Santas and their inflatable friends are standing tall, and spreading holiday cheer.
(Hat tip to Michelle Fang, whose Instagram post on the Santas clued me in to the displays.)