The most spirited blocks around
In a city full of festive cheer, one neighborhood’s decorations stand out
by Dean DeChiaro
Reporter staff writer
Dec 22, 2013 | 6163 views | 0 0 comments | 120 120 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MAY THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT BE WITH YOU – Muller Insurance took on a Star Wars theme in preparation for the Hoboken Chamber of Commerce’s annual Christmas decoration contest. No word on the winners yet, but maybe the Mullers will use some holiday themed Jedi mind tricks on the judges.
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Every Christmas, Hoboken takes its place amongst the most festive small cities around the country. Places like Bethlehem, Pa. and McAdenville, N.C. have officially claimed the title of Christmas Town, U.S.A. but when it comes to enthusiasm, Hoboken is up there with the best of them.

In recent weeks, elaborate Christmas decorations have popped up in the same spots that boast the scariest Halloween decorations each year.

On Bloomfield and Garden Streets between Eleventh and Thirteenth, where century-old brownstones line the streets, residents go all out on decorations, both in and outside of their houses.

Dan Cox and his wife Mary Beth Yakoubian, who have lived on Bloomfield for 23 years, are displaying motorized window decorations, complete with children sledding down a hill. And their Christmas tree has been an ongoing work in progress for years as they try to add a new ornament each year.

“We have several from Germany, and some that are made from tea balls, that was kind of a fashionable thing to do in seventies,” explained Yakoubian, the household’s Christmas mastermind.
“It’s a great time of year to be from this town because the people here are very festive, whether you’re an old friend or a new friend, everyone understands the importance.” – Angelo Valente
Cox and Yakoubian host a Christmas party for their neighbors each year, and explained that between the three young children who live next door and the elderly lady in her nineties who comes from across the street, the affair is truly unique to Hoboken.

“The people change every year, but everyone in this neighborhood is always so friendly, and it’s a nice chance for us to get together,” said Yakoubian.

On Garden Street, Angelo Valente and his wife Jane are well aware of Hoboken’s Christmas spirit. As fourth generation Hobokenites, the Valentes said that they look forward to the holidays in town every year. While their three daughters spend the day looking for signs of Santa’s visit, the Valentes spend it enjoying their neighbors.

“It’s a great time of year to be from this town because the people here are very festive, whether you’re an old friend or a new friend, everyone understands the importance,” said Angelo.

In one of the most fantastically decorated houses in the entire city, Patrick Toth and Christian Stillwagon are the proud owners of 149 nutcrackers and two Christmas trees, one dedicated to ornaments that they’ve collected through the years and another exclusively adorned with ornaments sold by Katherine’s Collection.

“Though lately a lot of those ornaments aren’t made in the United States anymore, so I’ve stopped buying them,” said Toth, who takes charge of Christmas decorations while Stillwagon usually heads the Halloween effort.

Meanwhile, the residents of a house at Thirteenth and Garden streets have been running a neighborhood “cookie exchange” for 11 years around the holidays. This year, they taped posters to neighbors’ doors announcing the event for this Sunday at their house. Participants were asked bring 60 cookies (48 spread between eight doggie bags, and a dozen to share).

Business decorating contest from Chamber of Commerce

Local businesses in the area are getting in on the fun as well. Just blocks away, Pablo Godoy of Right Angle Framing celebrated his annual tradition of window dressings by unveiling a Winter Wonderland scene, complete with a model train and motorized carousel. Muller Insurance, on the other hand, took on a slightly quirkier approach, adorning several large Star Wars characters with Santa hats and Christmas lights.

Many local businesses are participating in a decorating contest organized by the Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber is awarding $500 to the first place winner, and $250 and $100 to the second and third place winners, respectively.

“I think the holidays are a great time to show that businesses are part of the community and that we’re just as excited about the holidays as the kids are,” Godoy said recently. “I want kids to come past the window and really be blown away by what they see.”

Holiday spirit is filling other arenas of town as well. Many residents have volunteered at the local homeless shelter, and the Police Department’s “Fill the Bus” toy drive, with only a few days to go, is looking like a massive success.

Dean DeChiaro may be reached at

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