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Embrace the Overabundance of Christmas Cheer on 34th Street

Humor columnist Mike Moran argues there's no need to be a "Grinch" about the Hampden tradition.

North Baltimore it’s that time of year again. When our beloved neighborhood of Hampden suspends its subtle flair for tacky eccentricity in exchange for obscene amounts of tacky eccentricity. Of course I’m referring to our famous annual tradition of turning West 34th Street into a holiday tinged, poor man’s Las Vegas.

It’s called The Miracle on 34th Street, and it’s a local tourist attraction that brings in thousands of gawkers from all over the world, hungry for an overabunance of Christmas decorations with a few requisite Hanukah items thrown in here and there.

It’s a popular myth that everyone who moves into the 700 block of West 34th Street, between Keswick Road and Chestnut Street, are contractually obligated to participate in the gaudiness. Though this is not the case, just about every residence unabashedly overdoses on holiday spirit.

There is holiday themed junkyard art, inflatable characters two stories tall, enough strings of Christmas lights to guide a small aircraft in for a landing, and every other Christmas decoration imaginable. Now in its 64th year, and recently voted eigth best place in America to visit for Christmas by MSN.com, the Miracle on 34th Street is a Baltimore tradition of holiday excess, warmhearted cheer and—controversy?

I was shocked to find an entire section devoted to “Critism” of the event on the Wikipedia page for the Miracle on 34th Street,

The Wiki page even suggests some neighbors have rechristened the beloved event “A Nightmare on 34th Street.” How is there a controversy surrounding such an innocent, joyous event?

Well, apparently the bah-humbuggery (which is weirdly attributed to reporting from The Christian Science Monitor) is mainly aimed at the excessive amounts of traffic and energy usage.

I can see how upward of thousands of extra people coming to an area where parking is sometimes a problem anyway can be annoying. Sure we aren’t exactly setting the best example for energy conservation.

But come on, must we in the media always find the dirt on everything? The lights on 34th Street are so beloved they bring in folks the world over.  There’s no reason to get all Grinchy about things.

The Christian Science Monitor is not the only one exposing the dark and seedy underside of 34th Street. The event’s homepage even warns visitors of deceitful Saint Nicks posing as neighborhood residents and asking for donations toward energy bills.

But what’s the big deal? This just proves that we in Baltimore have the most creative panhandlers ever!

Seriously! That is brilliant. That would be like standing outside the aquarium and asking for help paying the water bill. 

When it comes to tourist action, The Miracle on 34th Street is one of the few events that we can wave in South Baltimore’s over-priced, largely corporate, stupid, smelling face. So let’s enjoy our annual stint as the cool kid in class, North Baltimore.

After the great Hon debacle of 2011 we all deserve to relax and enjoy a merry holiday season (oh and by the way the term “holiday season” is now a registered trademark of me, Mike Moran, and cannot be reprinted without permission).

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Meghan December 13, 2011 at 01:46 PM
Knew it was your article as soon as I read the title in my email. Nice read to wake up to on me bday! p.s. I am proud that you typed 'aquarium' yanno...since you hate it so much. haha, As always, GREAT column Mike!
Andrea December 13, 2011 at 06:43 PM
"...overdoses on holiday spirit..." "...enough Christmas lights to guide a small aircraft in for a landing..." Ha! Oh, EXACTLY! You captured so well the look & feel of this celebratory human behavior, which, as you so correctly point out, is pretty harmless. It's adults having fun, & it turns out to be enchanting for adults & kids alike. Lord knows we NEED a little crazy spangle right now, especially with the general doldrums of the country due to the economy, etc. I say hooray for Hampden, hon! Makes me nostalgic for Baltimore...thank you, Mike! Andrea Andrea
ralahinn1 December 13, 2011 at 07:26 PM
I love this time of year ^ _ ^
Fran M. December 13, 2011 at 09:30 PM
Love it. Our turn to shine! Literally!
CASSANDRA December 14, 2011 at 11:44 PM
Look forward to seeing these lights every Christmas Season. It would not seem like Christmas without our 34th Street in Hampden Christmas lights displays!! It's the most wonderful time of the year!! Seasons Greetings to all.

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