Christmas lights in Salem carry on a family tradition
Cibulski adjusted his Christmas countdown sign outside his highly decorated North Policy Road home on Dec. 11. Christmas countdown sign outside his highly decorated North Policy Road home on Dec. 11. (April Guilmet Photo)
SALEM – Growing up in Billerica, Mass., Mark Cibulski Jr. was awed by the thousands of glowing lights strewn in his grandparent’s yard.
For more than two decades, Phyllis and Walter Cibulski’s holiday light display captured the imaginations of thousands of viewers, who traveled from near and far to catch a glimpse of the yearly Christmas spectacle.
Following Walter’s death in 2007, the lights went dark, but their memory lived on in the heart of his grandson.
Three years ago, when the younger Cibulski and his wife, Tracie, moved to their current home at 102 N. Policy Road in Salem, a tradition was reborn.
It started off with just a few lighted holiday figures – the same ones that graced his grandparents’ yard for so many years.
“We’d go over to my grandmother’s house, and I’d be like, ‘How much can I fit in my truck?’” Cibulski laughed. “And of course, once you start, you just can’t stop.”
Work on this year’s display began immediately after Halloween, with Cibulski’s stepson Austin, 16, lending a hand by climbing a ladder and stringing lights on the highest boughs of several huge evergreen trees.
Each weekend in November, the family and some equally enthusiastic friends hauled down boxes upon boxes of holiday decorations from the attic, untangling strand after strand of lights and replacing burnt-out bulbs.
“There’s a lot of history here,” said Tracie Cibulski, a caterer. “His grandfather would definitely be proud.”
After roughly 100 hours of work, the current display was ready for its sparkling debut by Nov. 30.
It’s a veritable winter wonderland, aglow with a colorful manger scene, giant candles, animated figures, carolers, snowmen, reindeer and Santa Claus. A pair of red cardinals are perched in the tree, while Old Saint Nick himself prepares to shuffle down the chimney, a sack full of toys on his back.
As in years past, this year’s display includes plenty of new additions to Cibulski’s impressive collection, including pair of ice-skating penguins, Snoopy’s feathered pal Woodstock and one unique Grinch made from a repurposed alien figure he’d had from Halloween.
Tracie added a handmade ribbon of tiny pink lights in honor of her mother, a breast cancer survivor.
“Every weekend, he’s coming home with something new,” Tracie said. “Me, I like to work more behind the scenes. It’s getting pretty cold out there.”
The light show begins at dusk each day, with Cibulski returning home from his job managing the Gibbs gas station in Derry in time to switch the lights on at 4:30 p.m. sharp and keep them on until 9 p.m. on weeknights, 11 p.m. most weekends.
“On Christmas Eve, of course, they’ll be on all night,” Cibulski added.
The family said it costs them roughly $100 per month to keep the lights lit each December.
But all can agree it’s well worth it to spread a bit of joy to friends and strangers this holiday season.
“I’ll be outside replacing a bulb and we’ll see a car slow down, and someone’s taking a picture with their cell phone inside” Cibuski grinned. “That makes me feel pretty good.”