There is a neighborhood in Washington DC which I nicknamed “The Miracle on A Street NE” in homage to the 20th Century Fox film called “A Miracle on 34th Street.”
We all yearn to be part of those magical towns in the movies—fictional places like Bedford Falls In A Wonderful Life—where neighbors know everybody by name, watch out for each other’s kids, and notice when something is wrong. But the reality is life can be quite anonymous when you live in the city.
The Miracle on 34th Street Christmas movie features a Macy Santa Claus who believes he is the real St. Nicholas.
In this Historic Capitol Hills neighborhood, located on the 600 block of A Street NE, the neighbors believe they are a mail station for the North Pole.
On a blustery day in DC, I discovered Santa’s A Street mailbox. An elegant woman stood talking to a little girl who was preparing to mail her letter to Santa Claus. Her mom stood nearby. The little girl was asking about getting a kitten on Christmas morning.
Catherine said she didn’t know why cats were the big request this holiday but she had to put up a letter from Santa to explain how they were his helpers.
Letters from Children
If the parents gave permission, Catherine displayed their letters to Santa on her fence. She also hung a photo of her cat. I wish now that I had taken more photos of these charming letters.
I adored the letter from “Ginis the Dog.” He wanted a big stick, some cheey toys, one new dog bed, dog car, and dog ice crem (spelling mistakes have not been corrected).
To help the children think beyond their own wishes, there was a note that said “maybe this year, instead of just toys for you . . . you can ask Santa to . . .thank a neighbor, help a friend, do something wonderful for the world.”
In reply, little Lyla Julia wrote Santa: “I hope you have a merry Christmas and I hope I am good. I wish for world peace.”
There were so many letters hanging from her fence that I didn’t think Catherine could find an inch of space to hang another child’s letter to Santa. YET there were still four more days to December 25.
Puppies Love Santa
I adopted my Golden Retriever puppy in June. This was his first Christmas. I couldn’t tell if he was more fascinated by the children he saw at Catherine’s house or the cool letters dangling from her fence. It took a little bit of cajoling to get him to sit still and pose for me in front of the A Street mailbox.
Since Parker was a rambunctious 7-month-old puppy, I couldn’t risk getting too close to the fence. He would definitely try to tear off a letter and eat it even if it put him on Santa’s “Naughty List.”
I couldn’t get this wonderful Christmas miracle out of my mind. So I decided to write a letter to the occupant of this house to ask how the Christmas post box got started. I labeled the letter: Attn: North Pole post box.
On January 2, I received an email from Catherine. “Thank you so much for your kind letter regarding your experience on A Street NE and your enjoyment of the letters to Santa . . . I’m so delighted that we provided a sense of wonderment for young and old this season.”
After reading her email, I learned that what might look like simply neighbors decorating their individual houses was actually a group endeavor.
“My wonderful neighbors have not only embraced each other during these last trying years, but have tried to bring joy and light to others with our various holiday decorations.”Catherine
Coping with COVID
For the last two years, these neighbors living on A Street NE sought to look after each other during the pandemic.
“Our Friday night outside gatherings that started in March 2020 as a ‘check-in’ on neighbors during the lockdown, have also continued every Friday night, including New Year’s Eve this year!” said Catherine.
“Actually it was another neighbor who suggested we do a sidewalk happy hour. We just masked up. It continues on and we are still doing it. We have only missed a few due to weather,” added Michael.
Danica and Michael are the two co-chairs of the A Street neighborhood group. They email neighbors and set up the schedule for the group decorating parties. In fact, the popularity of their December 2020 holiday efforts spurred them to decorate for Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day.
Michael explained: “It’s something we started last year, and at the request of others, kept going through April. We were excited to bring it back this past holiday season in an expanded form, and plan on keeping it going through April again.”
On the last Sunday in January, in wicked cold weather (temps below 25 F) in Washington DC, neighbors gathered to hang Valentine’s Day signs on fences and from trees on the 600 block of A Street NE. The most hilarious decoration is the pink flamingo wearing a red hat. I wonder if this resident is a Floridian?
I went down to explore on Monday afternoon. The heart-shaped messages (You Rock!) (How Sweet) (Cutie Pie) (Soul Mate) hanging from the trees charm me. I created an Instagram reel.
Everywhere I saw red hearts dancing off of tree branches. Cutout Valentine hearts floated on red ribbons. A LOVE sign was propped on the grass near bricks.
It took a little encouragement but I even managed to persuade Parker to pose for a photo in front of the Valentine’s Day card.
Each house is decorated differently. For example, I saw a monster’s head attached to a tree. His white gnarled hands reach out toward pedestrians. But he obviously celebrates Valentine’s Day because he has a red heart above his head.
This Capitol Hill neighborhood is decorated with gusto. Signs sprout on every inch of lawns. Who doesn’t remember the joy of scribbling their name on the little Valentine cards that our moms purchased at the drug store for our elementary school’s Valentine Day party? How eagerly as a child I would tear open each envelope and then laugh at the silly cartoons.
I knew I wanted to hug all these neighbors who were sending out these endearing messages that made anyone walking by their houses smile.
Being a dog owner, my favorite was ”I Chews You” featuring a cherubic dog.
But I think the kiddos will love the “You Have A Pizza My Heart.”
And certainly, every dog walker will chuckle when he or she sees the Happy Valentine Day’s card featuring nine adorable pooches. I even saw a Golden Retriever.
“I woof you.”Pooch
There were numerous red and white striped heart-shaped decorations with different messages including “Kiss Me,” “True Love,” and “Hug Me,” stationed on lawns.
I loved all this old-fashioned holiday fun. This is exactly what we need right now to help get us through these difficult times with the pandemic.
Making a Miracle
I interviewed Catherine, Michael, and Danica via Zoom in January about how the neighborhood’s holiday program began. “It was just last Christmas [2020 when it started],” said Michael. “It just evolved. We started putting up the decorations for Christmas. Danica’s husband kept talking about putting string lights across the street. And Danica and I were like ‘No, no, no. It is too wide. It is too much.’ So we decided to string them between the trees in front of our houses. This kinda grew and we extended it to the other side of the street. Then everybody decorated their yards in their own way.”
It was hilarious to watch them squabble about who did what. Catherine said she was told, not asked, that she would be the postmaster in 2021. But Danica said she was the most obvious choice.
“Our decorations for the holiday have evolved. This year I looked around and I saw Santa’s Post Office. I told Catherine that ‘you are the perfect house for this.’ She wasn’t sold on the idea. But anyway I made her (ok I didn’t make her) and it turned into the most popular thing on the block for the holidays,” explained Danica, laughing.
Certainly, Catherine’s zeal in decorating for the children was obvious. I was blown away by her care in chatting with kids who stopped by her house to mail their letters to Santa.
By the time I visited the neighborhood again on December 28, Santa’s A Street Mailbox was closed. But remember it is only 10+ months until the 2022 Christmas decorations are hung on A Street NE!
My blog is named after my female solo treks. But due to the pandemic, I have not traveled internationally for 25 months. The last places I visited were Venice and Prosecco Hills in Italy and Lisbon and the island of Madeira in Portugal.
During this time, I learned how to take solo treks each day in Washington DC. I traveled near and far, seeking solace in nature. But I also found my neighborhood treks distracted me. I loved to admire the homes in different DC’s neighborhoods—Dupont Circle, Georgetown, U Street, and 16th Street.
Nearly two years ago, a friend told me about a giraffe sculpture on A Street NE in the historic Capitol Hills neighborhood. Curious, I decided to extend my morning walk past my U.S. Capitol circuit. Enroute to the giraffe, I discovered a historic DC neighborhood with row houses and a few apartment buildings. Soon I was walking here regularly.
Fourteen months ago, I recorded this video of the Christmas decorations on A Street NE. The neighborhood’s holiday spirit lightened my heart in what was a fearful time before the vaccinations for Covid were ready for widespread distribution.
I am so grateful for this Miracle on A Street NE. Thank you Catherine, Danica, Michael, and all the wonderful neighbors on A Street NE who made this miracle happen.
Definition of a miracle?
“Extraordinary event, development, or accomplishment that brings very welcome consequences.”
We all can make miracles happen for our neighbors, family, friends … and yes … strangers.
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BejalFebruary 5, 2022 at 9:57 am
This is incredibly heart warming to read! Great blog post idea!
TerriFebruary 5, 2022 at 10:41 am
I am so glad you enjoyed reading my article. It is truly a one-of-a-kind neighborhood.
PamFebruary 5, 2022 at 10:10 am
What a gem to find in Washington DC. I’ve been a few times but never heard of this before. Will definitely save and check out next time I’m there!
TerriFebruary 5, 2022 at 10:42 am
You absolutely should do a walking tour of historic Capitol Hill. It is a great place to explore. This neighborhood is special!
Lynn DooseyFebruary 5, 2022 at 11:14 am
This is my favorite post of yours. It’s uplifting and heartwarming.
TerriFebruary 5, 2022 at 11:26 am
Thank you so much. I wanted to spotlight this very special neighborhood in historic Capitol Hill in Washington DC. I also think it is heartwarming!
HazelFebruary 5, 2022 at 11:38 am
This is a lovely uplifting story, Terri. What an extraordinary street in your capital city. I love the way it encompasses the different celebrations as well.
TerriFebruary 5, 2022 at 11:40 am
I knew I had to write about this neighborhood from the minute I discovered it. But it took me nearly 18 months to do it . . . LOL. I was very lucky that Catherine emailed me back after she received my letter of inquiry. I loved learning about how the neighbors work together to decorate.
JuliFebruary 5, 2022 at 11:59 am
Thank you for sharing this story, Terri! Such an uplifting read and it truly reminds us that miracles do exist as do kind people in this world! We could all use a few more friends and neighbors like the people you’ve met in DC!
TerriFebruary 5, 2022 at 3:51 pm
I couldn’t agree more. I love how this neighborhood came together during the pandemic to watch out for each other. It is inspiring.
HannahFebruary 5, 2022 at 2:28 pm
Miracle on 34th Street was my favourite Christmas movie when I was young! A Street NE looks like such a magical place to explore! I’d love to visit one day and soak up good vibes! What a fabulous community! Thanks for the great guide!
SamFebruary 5, 2022 at 2:35 pm
Ahh what a lovely little place! I love quirky finds like this haha
KristaFebruary 5, 2022 at 3:31 pm
What a unique place to visit! I used to love watching Miracle and 34th Street at Christmas.
LyneFebruary 5, 2022 at 4:01 pm
I never watched the movie but this area looks so lovely, I love all these decorations! Also, Parker is so adorable!
TerriFebruary 5, 2022 at 4:12 pm
The film is an American holiday classic. And A Street NE definitely staged its own miracle. Parker says woof! He appreciates hearing from our readers.
HeslFebruary 5, 2022 at 4:42 pm
Such community spirit! Adversity really does bring people together. Our local streets have been hung with bunting, and out door street parties have marked summer events. The pandemic may just have a silver lining after all.
TerriFebruary 5, 2022 at 5:12 pm
I agree. I think it is wonderful how people have drawn closer together in their own community during the pandemic.
HeatherFebruary 5, 2022 at 4:56 pm
What a beautiful and original post. Such a lovely way to experience all these neighborhoods!
TerriFebruary 5, 2022 at 5:13 pm
Thank you Heather. I just had to share this experience with my readers.
TaraFebruary 5, 2022 at 6:03 pm
What a feel-good article! This community sounds amazing and one to be proud to be a part of. I hope I return to DC one day to see this for myself.
TerriFebruary 5, 2022 at 6:06 pm
Thank you so much. I loved reporting on this neighborhood. Watch the YouTube video. You will feel the magic at Christmas!
MegsFebruary 5, 2022 at 6:28 pm
This is such a heartwarming piece Terri! Thank you so much for sharing and reminding us of daily miracles. I, too, take daily walks, no matter where I am in the world to remind me of the beauty during these times that can appear bleak. The simple moments where we find cracks of light like kindness and authenticity always move us the most. Thank you xx
TerriFebruary 5, 2022 at 6:54 pm
Megs that is wonderful. I agree that we notice more when we get outside and walk. I think we must always be looking for daily miracles. We have to look for beauty in our world. It is there! xo
Charu GoyalFebruary 5, 2022 at 7:21 pm
This is so sweet. You are part of an incredible and thoughtful community. And, I need to watch the movie.
TerriFebruary 6, 2022 at 8:27 am
You absolutely should watch the movie. The 1940s film is a classic! And yes this Capitol Hills neighborhood is really special.
ErinFebruary 5, 2022 at 7:25 pm
What a cute little residential area! I wish we had more streets like this in Savannah, but too many of our neighborhoods are being overtaken by Airbnb. I miss seeing wreaths on doors and seasonal decor. That letters to Santa idea is so cute, and so is Parker 🙂
TerriFebruary 6, 2022 at 8:26 am
Washington DC actually is a city made up of neighborhoods. Each is its own enclave. I don’t think people realize this. So I have been trying to write about different neighborhoods so visitors can learn different parts of the city to visit. Washington DC is not just the Smithsonian museums and the National Mall. Historic Capitol Hill is one of my favorite places to walk my dogs. The architecture is stunning.
AnnieFebruary 5, 2022 at 7:36 pm
Loved this! Totally made me smile. What a wonderful idea! 😊
TerriFebruary 6, 2022 at 8:25 am
I am so glad that my article made you smile. I hope you watched the two videos on my YouTube & Instagram links embedded in this post. The decorations are incredible.
JoannaFebruary 5, 2022 at 8:04 pm
A delightful, inspiring story. Thank you for sharing.
TerriFebruary 6, 2022 at 8:24 am
I am so glad you found it inspiring. So many people live in neighborhoods where there is no contact between households. It is wonderful to see a neighborhood in the city where the residents are so close.
EmmaFebruary 6, 2022 at 1:11 am
What a lovely story, and a beautiful idea. I love seeing all the letters and decorations. Very festive
TerriFebruary 6, 2022 at 8:23 am
Thank you Emma. I wish I had taken a photo of each child’s letter to Santa. They were alternately funny and poignant. But I was afraid that my puppy would try to pull the letters off Catherine’s fence!
KatyFebruary 6, 2022 at 4:21 am
What an amazing Street to visit! The decorations are beautiful, so cheerful.
TerriFebruary 6, 2022 at 8:22 am
I agree. The decorations just blow me away. I can’t wait to see their St. Patrick Day’s decorations. They go up after Valentine’s Day.
AnitaFebruary 6, 2022 at 2:21 pm
It’s a great idea to find new places near you. I love these interesting decorations. In the last two years, I have discovered many new places in my home country worth visiting and feel good about ithat.
TerriFebruary 6, 2022 at 2:30 pm
I continue to look for unique neighborhoods in Washington DC. It is so fun to discover them.
SharonFebruary 6, 2022 at 2:53 pm
That’s so heart-warming. Just what we need at a time like this. Thank you for sharing.
TerriFebruary 7, 2022 at 12:57 pm
Thank you Sharon.
BrittanyFebruary 6, 2022 at 4:45 pm
What a great idea for a blog post! This was so sweet to read, and I loved seeing all the letters to Santa, Valentine’s Day cards, and more. Plus, I’m glad Parker enjoyed them, too! 🙂
TerriFebruary 7, 2022 at 12:58 pm
I wish I took photo of every letter to Santa that hung on the fence. They were precious.
Ashleigh's AtlasFebruary 6, 2022 at 7:38 pm
Wow I’ve never heard of this street. I’ve never seen the movie 🙈 but this looks super cute 💖
AlexFebruary 6, 2022 at 10:30 pm
OMG I lived in one of the houses that is in one of your photos! I lived in DC for almost a decade and Capitol Hill (right behind Cannon House Office Building) was my very first apartment. I lived in other properties around that area for 3-4 years. Wonderful guide!
TerriFebruary 7, 2022 at 5:46 am
Alex you are so lucky! This is such a wonderful neighborhood. I wished I lived here. I love walking my puppy in historic Capitol Hill and admiring the architecture. The row houses are gorgeous. And there are so many old apartment houses. I’d love to know the stories of people who used live there over the 80 years. Washington DC is special. It stole my heart.