Christmas just won't be the same in New Britain.
The woman on Lexington Street who always redecorates her entire home with Christmas light has passed away.
According to Erickson-Hansen Funeral Home, Rita Giancola died on Monday peacefully at home surrounded by Christmas lights and family. She was 91.
Every winter, Giancola would transform her home into a Christmas wonderland for four weeks. The first floor and front yard were always in the Christmas spirit.
"People are amazed, especially their first time. They cannot believe that an old lady does all this!," said Giancola back in 2014.
New Britain Mayor Erin Stewart said she "would not be surprised if she had already started bringing things out and down for this year."
"New Britain has lost a true icon.... Mrs. Christmas herself, Mrs. Rita Giancola. May your Christmas spirit live on! My most sincere condolences & prayers go out to the Giancola family," Stewart posted on Facebook.
She had five kids and had been decorating for more than six decades. She started offering tours of her home in 1978. Visitors typically bring canned food that she donated to shelters.
"Christmas is Christmas. It's a time of giving in here, and I give of myself," Giancola previously told Eyewitness News.
"She just loves everybody and when you come to her house, if you're down, even before you leave here, you feel happy," Giancola's friend Sharon Keroack previously told Eyewitness News.
There were so many decorations at her home, Giancola could not tell you how many Santas or snowmen she owned. She was all about spreading holiday cheer and love.
"We're just very lucky for being able to have that in our lives," Stewart said. "She was dedicated to spreading the Christmas spirit around town and she certainly did that."
Eyewitness News talked with people who remembered the tradition that started in the 50s when Harry Truman was president.
"Everything that she did she did for others and just for the joy of doing it," Kris Fletcher, of New Britain, said.
Kris and Bruce Fletcher knew her well, taking dance lessons at her home studio for years even when it was decked out.
"She would put her decorations a little bit higher in the dance room so that Bruce wouldn't hit the ceiling or hit the hanging decorations," Kris Fletcher said.
While her absence will be felt this Christmas, people said they will cherish her memory and the love and joy she brought to the city.
"Every October when I see it all decorated it was just a warm feeling that added warmth to my walk, to my ride," Velmar Byrd, of New Britain, said.
Calling hours are Thursday from 5-9 p.m. at Erickson-Hansen Funeral Home on South Main Street in New Britain.
Funeral services will be held on Friday at 10 a.m. at Berlin Congregational Church on Worthington Ridge.
Giancola's burial will be in the State Veterans Cemetery in Middletown.
Those who wish may send flowers or make memorial donations to the Salvation Army on Franklin Square in New Britain.
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