When it comes to dazzling holiday light displays, Coachman Lane in Levittown has been a longtime favorite.
Oohs and aahs have been a common reaction for decades. The chuckles are something new.
This month, the Engel family’s home is illuminated as usual in bright lights and glowing winter wonderland characters.
Next door, the Paganelli family used to put up their own lights, but now, in a nod to the ever-growing magnificence of the Engels’ display, they’ve erected a tongue-in-cheek response.
In the Paganellis’ front yard are five glowing letters — DiTTO — with a lighted arrow pointing to the Engel residence.
The families moved into adjacent houses on Coachman Lane 32 years ago, a month apart.
Every year, the Engels added more lights and characters to their holiday display until it became so spectacular people drove for miles to see it. The house is a regular on Long Island Christmas light tours and has been frequently featured on TV.
The neighbors, though, realized it was becoming too much work to compete. Instead of getting their tinsel in a tangle, the Paganellis got creative.
“In the past we did put lights, just simple lights, nothing ornate, and then we just said we didn’t want to do it anymore,” Joan Paganelli, 57, said.
Then her daughter came up with the DiTTO sign idea.
“Wouldn’t it be funny?” she asked her parents.
John Paganelli, 70, used old Christmas lights and wooden boards to create the sign a few years ago. This year, they’ve upgraded to a brighter version.
The Engels “spend all the money for the decorations, and we get the benefit of it,” John said with a laugh.
For Beth and Raymond Engel, both 58, it was never a competition.
“We started small and each year it just got bigger and bigger,” she said.
When the DiTTO sign went up, the Engels were delighted.
“We were hysterically laughing. It was so funny they came up with that,” Beth Engel said. “A lot of people, the neighbors — they see it and they take pictures.”
Joan Paganelli said one woman even knocked on her door to tell the family how much she loved the joke.
These days, the neighbors help each other with what has become a joint display.
John Paganelli assists Raymond Engel for the three weekends it takes to put up the big display, and the Paganelli family puts their sign out just after Thanksgiving.
Said Joan Paganelli: “I just hope people continue to enjoy it.”