Winters in New England can be long, with the sun setting just after four around the solstice and the holidays. Those dark nights have inspired a growing tradition of light in Cape Cod’s oldest town. Sandwich lights brighten up the town, adding festive cheer!
The Sandwich lights are evident all throughout the town, whether you are taking a driving tour to find the Giants of Sandwich, stopping by the Glass Museum to enjoy their “Light up the World” exhibit or taking a stroll through the “Gardens Aglow” at the Heritage Gardens and Museum, the lights are sure to illuminate your December!
Sandwich Lights: The Giants of Sandwich
Sandwich glassblower Michael Magyar has been brightening the roadsides and business fronts of Route 6A during the holidays with his unmissable Giants sculptures for over two decades.
The Giants, which now can be spotted throughout the Cape, began with a window. Each holiday season since he’d arrived on the Cape in 1992, Magyar had placed a two-dimensional Christmas tree on the side of the shop. The installation of a bay window in 1997 meant that the holiday decor had to change. Looking for a festive alternative, the first Giant was created from welded rebar and rod iron!
The first giant, Moto-San the glassblower, went up in 1998 and can still be found in front of The Glass Studio on Cape Cod in East Sandwich. The glassblowing giant was unrivaled for five years, until 2003 when Michael Magyar built a sculpture for the baseball card shop next door. Then a few years later came the giant at Titcomb’s Bookshop. The giants looked neat, all in a row, lit up during the holiday season.
From those first hulking giants made from bent and welded rebar and rod iron, the metal sculptures have spread down Route 6A to downtown Sandwich and beyond. The creations now number over seventy, showcasing the unique businesses and organizations of Sandwich and other towns on the Cape.
To create the Giants Michael Magyar works with local businesses to produce a suitable design, sketching it out on graph paper. From there the craftsman bends and welds rebar and rod iron following the lines laid out on a concrete pad, ending with the new Giant ready for lights, joining its counterparts for the holiday season. The welding, grinding, and construction of the giants are challenging work! Magyar says, “It’s so much fun.” He’s amazed at the way one sculpture has snowballed, and the way the Giants have really grown organically. “I didn’t see it coming,” he notes.
Each giant is unique, and Michael says that they vary in the time they take to create. The small and simpler designs can be completed in a couple of days, while larger and more complicated designs take a longer time! The weather is also a crucial factor, as the Giants are created outdoors. Michael remembers a year when he was working on a Giant only to go outside to find the structure in progress and all of his tools hidden under a layer of snow!
Magyar notes that he often gets the credit for the Giants, but that in reality, “A village makes it work.” The giants’ owners light the sculptures each season, maintain them, and put them out each season. While easy to miss when they are not lit, the two-dimensional metal creations come alive with lights when the sun goes down.
From birds to boaters and beyond, there is a Giant for everyone! Some of the sculptures feature a Fireman (and truck), a Police Car, Service Man, Cranberry Harvest Man, Gardener, Innkeeper, and Wood Carver. Others nod at the maritime and recreation industries of the Cape– a sand dollar, fish of multiple species, a Lobsterman, fly fisherman, kayaker and more.
Still more Giants embrace the holiday season, spreading cheer with multiple Christmas trees, a snowflake, a poinsettia, reindeer pulling a sleigh, the star of Bethlehem, and angels, even Old Man Winter himself. From a knight on horseback to a dragon, there’s no shortage of creativity with the Giants of Sandwich!
The Giants are growing in number each season, and some of them have moved around in unique ways! This season Michael is working on a bicycle for the Orleans Improvement Association, a lighthouse for the Barnstable Historical Society, a pod of whales bound for Chatham, a ship’s wheel, a big shark fin, a snowy owl, bear, and more!
Some Giants have moved as businesses have changed location. Magyar notes that “The baseball player was ‘traded’ to Orleans.” Others, like the 375’s made for the Sandwich and Barnstable anniversaries have been repurposed. After the 2014 anniversary had passed Michael began working with the sculpture’s owners on what to do with the sculptures. Eventually they settled on angling the numbers up against each other, creating a sort of teepee structure. A bench was placed inside, and lights added to the structure, making a unique and festive addition to Hummingbird Park off of Main Street.
The Giants have moved beyond just Sandwich, with Orleans displaying five or six, and other towns adding more Giants as well. Some giants, like the Juggler, are returning to Sandwich this year after being displayed elsewhere.
The Chamber of Commerce provides a map of the Giants location as a part of their festive Holly Days of Sandwich. It can easily be turned into a fun scavenger hunt for the whole family, and a wonderful way to get acquainted with the businesses and organizations that make Sandwich so bright! You can visit your favorite Giants each season and enjoy all the new additions. The Chamber of Commerce also features Sandwich Community Television’s virtual tour of the giants on their website for those looking to experience the Giants of Sandwich from afar.
While many holiday traditions have had to be adapted or postponed over the past few seasons due to coronavirus, The Giants of Sandwich stand tall and bright, doing their part to make the days just a little bit brighter and shedding light on the businesses and organizations that make Sandwich unique.
Sandwich Lights: Sandwich Glass Museum
The special winter exhibit: “Light Up The World” – a celebration of Winter’s light and life, at the Sandwich Glass Museum is sure to brighten even the darkest of days. This fascinating exhibit brings together both historical and contemporary pieces to celebrate the joy of light. Illuminated sculptures as well as many cultural and religious artwork serve to illustrate the importance of light throughout the ages.
This exhibit in the Special Exhibition Gallery on display until March 19, 2023 will help to brighten the darkest months of the year. Throughout most cultures of the world, the positive and healing power of light is celebrated, bringing people together with festivals and rituals.
In addition to the special exhibit, you can watch a live demonstration of glassblowing or shop for an original hand-blown ornament or unique Christmas gift during the 13th annual Glass Blowers Christmas.
Sandwich Lights: Gardens Aglow at the Heritage Museum & Gardens
The Heritage Museum and Gardens stunning annual display of Gardens Aglow running through December 23rd has already sold out. The Sandwich lights event serves as a fundraiser for the Heritage Museum and Gardens.If you are one of the lucky ticket holders, this magnificent display of lights is sure to put you in the holiday spirit.
The lights stretch for miles, highlighting the trees, hydrangeas, rhododendrons, and other botanicals that make the gardens so special in the warmer times of the year. The lights also accentuate sculptures, walkways, windmills, and more, delighting your eyes with the twinkling and glittering glow.
In addition to the outdoor Sandwich lights at the Heritage Museum & Gardens, visit the indoor portion of Gardens Aglow. In the J.K. Lilly III Automobile Gallery, guests can visit with Santa in a 1913 Model T Ford! Those waiting to see Santa can enjoy the antique cars also on display in the hall. Kids will also enjoy riding the antique 1908 Looff Carousel in the American Art & Carousel Gallery.
Bring your coat and enjoy the chill in the air as you stroll through the paths of the garden. To warm up, gather around the fire pit to roast a marshmallow by the Magnolia Cafe. Or stop by the Cape Cod Donut Truck for a warm, fresh, apple cider donut. Kids will also have an exciting time on the scavenger hunt for reindeer!