How many light bulbs does it take to change a person, to illumine the dark recesses of the soul and make even the hardest of hearts go "oooh"? The world may never know, because there are way too many bulbs to count in the abundant festive light displays scheduled to brighten the Bay Area and beyond this holiday season. From simple flickers of candles to LED extravaganzas that can probably be seen from the moon, colors will sparkle in the dark like a million sets of Lite-Brites. With a late Thanksgiving, it's time to get started and squeeze in all the holiday cheer possible this season. Here's a glimmer of local events:
Holy illumination: Deacon Dave's Christmas Display, Livermore
In the "can be seen from space" category, this neighborhood tradition is a miraculous transformation of an ordinary residence -- inside and out -- into a holiday spectacle of biblical proportions. It all started when Dave Rezendes strung up "a few lights" back in 1982, the year he was ordained a deacon in the Catholic Church. Now, his displays include more than 350,000 lights, and a team of volunteers helps him design and construct a new theme each year. (It's a secret until opening night.)
Though his home, called Casa del Pomba (House of the Dove) attracts nearly 40,000 spectators and has been featured on HGTV and international Christmas specials, it's still free. Dave does accept donations for Santa's Secret Service, which provides gifts to the needy.
Where: 352 Hillcrest Ave. (between Compton Court and Pomona Way), Livermore.
When: Opening ceremonies will be held at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 30; open from 6 to 9 p.m. daily through New Year's Day, except in stormy weather.
Merry mainsails: Sausalito Lighted Boat Parade, Sausalito
There's nothing better to buoy one's holiday spirit than the sight of happy little boats decked fore and aft with delight, and Sausalito has one of the best boat parades around, now in its 26th year. Lights double and triple in the ripples of the bay, Santas sail sloops and schooners, fireworks shoot off and even the wettest blankets among us can find something to float their boats.
The parade is part of the Sausalito on the Waterfront's annual Winterfest, a full weekend involving a Naughty or Nice Ball, an arts and crafts fair, activities for kids, ballet performances, food, music, cider and hot chocolate.
Where: Along Spinnaker Drive on Sausalito's waterfront
When: Dec. 13-15; boat parade begins 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 14, followed by fireworks at 7:30 p.m.
Cost: Boat parade is free from public viewing areas, but admission fees apply to various events.
Corporate glitz: Bishop Ranch Business Park, San Ramon
A suburban office park might not pop to mind when you think of sites for holiday sights, but Bishop Ranch goes all out. The landscape department, led by Del Fitchett, starts hanging 300,000 lights in early November on 150 trees in the park, bringing in a 75-foot white fir as a centerpiece and making fountain lights glow red and green. And, as you commuters on Interstate 680 know, they turn the park's massive steel sculpture called "Folded Circle Two Rings" into a giant illuminated wreath with 12,000 lights.
Where: Bishop Ranch, 6111 Bollinger Canyon Road, San Ramon
When: Tree lighting event, 5:30 p.m. Dec. 6, with live music, a snow park with real snow, refreshments and a visit from Santa; the displays will be up through New Year's Day.
Details: www.bishop ranch.com; 925-543-0100
Luminous amble: Christmas in the Adobes, Monterey
Candles glow in historic churches and 19th-century adobes, luminaries line terraced walkways, carolers croon by roaring fires. There's tea and shortbread at the Robert Louis Stevenson House and hot chocolate at the Royal Presidio Chapel (San Carlos Cathedral), which hosts a Mass each night. This is Monterey's signature holiday event, opening 22 buildings in the city's historic downtown to strolling visitors.
Where: Monterey State Historic Park, 20 Custom House Plaza, Monterey
When: 5-9 p.m. Dec. 6 and 7
Cost: Tickets are $25 and can be purchased online or at the Cooper Museum Store, 525 Polk St., Monterey; proceeds benefit the park's educational programs.
Details: www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=26922, 831-649-7111
Ch-ch-cheer: Niles Canyon Train of Lights, Fremont and Sunol
Hop on vintage coaches or open cars decked in garlands and lights, warm your hands on a steaming cup of cocoa and ride the rails through time and the gentle curves of Niles Canyon. The 13-mile, hourlong round trip is a fundraiser for the Niles Canyon Railway.
Where: Niles station, 37001 Mission Blvd., Fremont, at the corner of Mission and Sullivan Underpass; Sunol station, 6 Kilkare Road, Sunol
When: From Nov. 29 through Dec. 29, trains run every Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Niles train departs at 4:30 p.m.; the Sunol train departs at 7:30 p.m. Cost: Tickets are $25 to $ 40 per seat and are available online in advance.
A whimsical walk in the park: Christmas in the Park, San Jose
This heart-of-the-city tradition began back in the 1950s with a single Nativity display built by Don Lima, who owned Lima Family Mortuary in the Willow Glen district. In the 1970s, his display got so big, Lima donated it to the city. Now the annual event encompasses the two-acre Plaza de Cesar Chavez, turning it into a winter fantasy land with glittering lights, caroling mice, elfin woodcrafters, a Victorian village, an animated Nutcracker Suite display and an enchanted forest of trees decorated by San Jose schools, community groups and businesses. Snow even falls in some spots.
Where: Plaza de Cesar Chavez, on Market Street between San Fernando and San Carlos streets, San Jose
When: Tree lighting will be held at 6 p.m. Nov. 29; the park will be open from 9 a.m. to midnight daily through New Year's Day.
Cost: Free, but donations are welcome.
Contact Angela Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @giveemhill.