Sammy Nahas, a 38-year-old electrician, is a guy’s guy, according to photographer Dana Ullman. Ullman has been documenting Nahas’ preparations for the holiday season since September, although planning is a year-round task.
“It’s like Harley Davidson meets Christmas,” says Nahas. “Would I picture me doing this? No. I sew for God’s sake. If you asked me 10 or 15 years ago if I could sew, I’d say you were out of your mind.”
On Staten Island, Christmas decorations are taken very seriously. Talking about Christmas trees, Santa’s elves, reindeer, and toy soldiers “makes everyday men Kings of Christmas,” Ullman says.
Nahas has spent over $100,000 on Christmas decorations in the last three years. This year alone, he estimates spending around $60,000.
The extravagant display takes extreme effort all year round. It requires almost 3,000 square feet of storage space, 200,000 lights, and an entire house full of Christmas paraphernalia — from miniature elves to life-size snowmen.
“It’s hard to live like this,” Nahas says, “bumping into stuff, just everyday activities. But it’s all for Christmas so it’s all ok. You wait 365 days for this one day. Jesus is born, family comes over, you eat like pigs, you’re merry, it’s a good day.”
The season isn’t all cheery and bright for Nahas. After finalizing a divorce three years ago, he said that Christmas Day actually became the most depressing day of the year for him. But once it’s over, he starts planning for next year.
Nahas works hard on his decorations for the enjoyment of others. Children and families tour the neighborhood full of dazzling lights and Nahas is satisfied by the happiness he brings to the community.
Dana Ullman is a freelance photographer based in Brooklyn.
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