A long-running Christmas tradition ends at ‘iconic’ Arlington home

Holiday light display at the Marcey's house in Arlington.
This will be the last year for the “iconic” holiday display that’s been lighting up the Arlington, Virginia, neighborhood at Calvin and Elinor Marcey’s house since 1969. (WTOP/Sandy Kozel)
Holiday light display at the Marcey's house in Arlington.
Kids pose for a photo at Calvin and Elinor Marcey’s house at 1610 N. Abingdon St., in Arlington, Virginia.
Holiday light display at the Marcey's house in Arlington.
A letter Calvin Marcey wrote, saying that he needs to focus his attention on his wife’s care, explains why this year’s light display will be the couple’s last. (WTOP/Sandy Kozel)
Holiday light display at the Marcey's house in Arlington.
A fraction of the display at the Marcey’s house in Arlington, Virginia, that includes a large nutcracker, the minions from the film “Despicable Me” and the rodents from Alvin and the Chipmunks. (WTOP/Sandy Kozel)
The Marcey's Christmas lights have been attracting crowds for 53 years.
The Marcey’s Christmas lights have been attracting crowds for 53 years.
Holiday light display at the Marcey's house in Arlington.
Calvin Marcy left a letter on the porch, explaining that this year will be the final year of the widely known display. (WTOP/Sandy Kozel)
Holiday light display at the Marcey's house in Arlington.
A medium-sized Santa Claus decoration under an evergreen arch, topped with a sign that reads, “Have yourself a merry little Christmas,” at the Marcey’s final Christmas display in Arlington, Virginia. (WTOP/Sandy Kozel)
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Holiday light display at the Marcey's house in Arlington.
Holiday light display at the Marcey's house in Arlington.
Holiday light display at the Marcey's house in Arlington.
Holiday light display at the Marcey's house in Arlington.
The Marcey's Christmas lights have been attracting crowds for 53 years.
Holiday light display at the Marcey's house in Arlington.
Holiday light display at the Marcey's house in Arlington.

Calvin and Elinor Marcey have been decorating their home at 1610 North Abingdon Street, in Arlington, Virginia, since 1969.

It’s one of those houses that people talk about and want to see every Christmas. Lights, Santas, teddy bears, candy canes, dolls, trains, cartoon characters — it has it all. Santa’s sleigh even sits atop their roof. Holiday lovers have made viewing the display a tradition for decades, and often, people who formerly lived in the neighborhood even come back just to see the decorations.



Martin Doczkat used to live down the street from the Marcey house. He’s brought his young son to see the decorations for about 10 years. Helen Sauvage, another former neighbor, brought a young cousin to enjoy the display. She said it’s sad to hear it is ending but adds: “Things change.”

Visitors learned things were changing from a framed letter the Marcey couple left on a table on their porch next to a train set and a red stocking. In it, Calvin Marcey explains this will be the last year for their renowned display because he needs to focus his attention on his wife’s care.

Listen to WTOP reporter Sandy Kozel's report.

Marcey writes in the letter:

“Like all of you, we have enjoyed our Christmas display over the last 53 years. Unfortunately, due to Mrs. Marcey’s health condition, we will no longer be able to have a display as my full time and attention will need to be directed to her care. While we appreciate the support of our neighbors who have volunteered to help, it just isn’t practical to continue our display.

We have enjoyed sharing this with you for all these years and appreciate being part of your family’s traditions. Thank you very much and from our entire family to yours, we wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.”

Kristen Hand lives around the corner from the Marceys. She says the glow from their house comes in through her bedroom window. She calls that “really nice and a comfort to look out and see it lit up.” Her son, Lucas, calls the display “iconic” and says he’s “really sad to see it go.”

Hundreds of people have posted good wishes and memories of their visits over the years on a neighborhood Facebook page, saying how much they’ve enjoyed the display. The display includes a “letters to Santa” mailbox. Hand suggests people fill it with thank you notes to the Marceys for the joy they’ve brought to their Arlington neighborhood for over a half-century.

Sandy Kozel

Sandy Kozel is an anchor at WTOP. She came to WTOP after a long career as an anchor/correspondent with the Associated Press. She also worked in local radio in the Cleveland area — and in Buffalo, where she was an award-winning anchor and reporter with WGR Radio and entertainment reporter for WGRZ-TV

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