Lehnertz Ave in Aurora, Illinois (just outside of Chicago) has a special place in my heart. Not just because my dad grew up on that street, but because every year its residents put on a Christmas display that people travel from near and far to see. Growing up, I remember lines of cars wrapped around the block just waiting to experience it!
It all began 63 years ago, when residents felt that the true meaning of Christmas was being buried beneath the shopping, parties and presents that this season brings. So they gathered together and developed an idea for Christmas decor that would tell the story of Jesus’ birth. Each person gave what talents they had to develop the concept, from painting and building to lights and sound. The result remains a touching tribute to the essence of the holiday, and is an incredible thing to witness year after year.
The experience begins at the top of the street, with the sign “Gloria in Excelsis Deo.” Christmas music plays on speakers attached to decorated streetlights, and you can’t help but feel that you’re about to experience something remarkable.
As you walk along the path, books are illuminated which tell the story of the first Christmas, piece by piece.
My extended family and I usually take turns reading each book out loud as we walk, a tradition that began before I can remember.
This year I went with my grandma, aunt, dad and cousins.
On the opposite side of the street from the books are shepherds watching over their flocks, mirroring what’s happening in the Christmas story.
Who would have thought that you’d see a sign like this in Illinois?!
Eventually, the other side of the street opens up into a field, with a giant NOEL sign that I climbed a lot as a child!
But by far the most amazing part of Lehnertz Ave is the life-size manger at the end of the street.
This manger was built by the residents, and is special to all of us because my grandpa was part of it.
You’re not supposed to go inside, but we’ve always been a family of rule breakers!
This year, the display is up until January 2nd, and you can find updates for future years here. The lights and music will be going from 5:00 – 10:30pm every night, except for Christmas Eve when it will last all night.
Lehnertz Ave is such a special place, and I hope that your experience will be as precious as mine has been.
Merry Christmas, and have a happy New Year.