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Photos: Miracle on South 13th Street is back with a smart twist

The homes hope to be more energy efficient this year

From the age of 7, Alex Khoa Du grew up on one of the most iconic streets in Philly—at least during the holidays.

For more than two decades, South 13th Street was simply a traditional South Philly block that transformed into an over-the-top holiday spectacle. Eventually, with every neighbor decking out their homes in colorful, twinkling lights, blow-up Santas, and more, it earned the moniker, “The Miracle on South 13th Street,” drawing thousands of people to the block every holiday season.

But this year, what visitors may not realize is that there’s a bit of a twist to the holiday light display: It’s being charged by smart technology, with hopes of saving the neighbors some time and money on their electricity bills.

“Recently, Samsung reached out to be and we started a conversation about using smart products,” explains Du, who is the community organizer of Miracle on South 13th Street and moved back to the block seven years ago. “It’s wonderful because we’ve always wanted to do a count down, but have never been logistically able to do it.”

Here’s how it works: The residents are using Samsung’s SmartThings devices, which allow them to turn their lights on and off using their smartphone. For years, most of the block left their lights on 24/7.

Convincing the every neighbor to take part in the new tradition wasn’t easy, though, Du admits. “As you know, South Philly it’s kind of section of the city where neighborhood to neighborhood, there’s an eclectic group of people. There are a lot of older people who don’t do well with technology, so we’re trying to help them along with it.”

Still, the technology allowed the block to celebrate this year’s debut of the Miracle on South 13th Street in one fell swoop on Saturday, November 26. “I’m thrilled because we’ve been talking about it for years, and now we can accomplish a big timed moment and light up the whole block at once,” says Du.

“To live on that block, it’s a proud moment for us to know that people appreciate it.”