Sandwich Giants Are the Towering Tradition of a True Cape Cod Christmas
There’s a giant holiday tradition in the Cape Cod town of Sandwich that you may not have known about, but it’s about to become a big part of your annual festivities.
All throughout the town, the Sandwich Giants stand tall over local homes and businesses, cheerily lighting up the night sky in unique and artistic ways.
“The Sandwich Giants have become a very big tradition, the bigger the better,” said Christine Ross, Executive Director of the Sandwich Chamber of Commerce.
The amazing part is, nearly all of the Sandwich Giants are the result of the artistry of one man.
“The majority of the Giants are sponsored by local businesses throughout town. Michael Magyar creates each merchant’s Giant to represent and highlight the heart of each business,” Ross said. “Taking part in this beloved town tradition represents that these businesses are a deeply rooted member of our Sandwich community.”
It also creates a de facto scavenger hunt for families getting into the holiday spirit, as they can use the Giants map and checklist put out by the Chamber of Commerce each year to try and see all of the Giants while visiting the local businesses that sponsor them.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our neighborhood, the spine of our local economy, and the spirit of our town,” Ross said. “It is a joy seeing Sandwich residents supporting these businesses during the holidays while creating magical family memories searching for the Sandwich Giants.”
How the Sandwich Giants Began
The concept for the Giants actually began back in 1998, when Michael Magyar of the Glass Studio on Cape Cod wanted to put a unique Christmas decoration in front of his studio on Route 6A in Sandwich.
“I just threw it together one year,” Magyar said. “I thought, ‘I’ll do a glass blower’ and then five years later, I did one for a baseball card shop. That was in 2003, and it’s been traded to the Orleans Redbirds, because now it’s down in Orleans, where it ended up after the guy who owned the shop retired.”
Three years after that, in 2006, Magyar created a Giant for Titcomb’s Bookshop, and that sparked an idea.
“So at that point, there were three of them, and I just started to wonder if more people would want them,” Magyar said. “So I knocked on some doors, and just started making more every year.”
He said he’s now made over 140 of them, and that he has drawings of all of them except for the original one he placed outside his own studio.
“A lot of people put a lot of energy to light them,” he said. “It’s a real community thing.”
How the Sandwich Giants Are Made
Magyar said when it comes to ideas, sometimes they come from him, and sometimes they come from the businesses or residents who are ordering them.
“Mostly I like for them to come to me with an idea,” he said, noting that he then shapes their ideas into something he can both create and will fit into the overall theme of the Giants.
There’s a bit of a trick, too, to make the Giants seem larger than life.
“I try to make the heads proportionally really small to make it look like they’re higher up,” he said. “From the waist down, they’re really long and big, and then the torso and heads get smaller and smaller, which in perspective makes it look bigger.”
Magyar builds the frames out of steel, and builds them to last.
“It’s mostly hot-rolled half-inch round stock, then three-quarter-inch rebar as backup,” he said. “I lay it all out on my concrete pad, weld it together, flip it, weld the other side, then grind every weld.”
He said the grinding is the part that takes the longest.
“Most of the time the welds are smooth, but sometimes they’re razor sharp – and I can’t have anything go out of the studio that’s razor sharp,” he said. “So that’s the really hard part.”
Magyar said it takes about three days to a week to complete each Giant.
“It really varies, depending on how large it is, but really simple ones take three to four days,” he said. “I do all the metal, and then (the buyer) is responsible for the lights. There are so many different lights you can buy – string lights, rope lights, LED lights – that I just stay out of that. I just do the metal, deliver it, and they’re responsible for the lighting.”
Considering Magyar’s own Giant is now well over 20 years old, he thinks they’ll all be around for a very long time.
“I’d imagine these will be around for 50 to 100 years,” he said.
Does Magyar Have a Favorite Sandwich Giant?
“My favorite one is on The Weather Store on Main Street,” Magyar said of the shop that sells weather instruments and radios.
“It was the first time I did a face, and it’s a real classic-looking old man blowing the North Wind. The detail on the face was really fun,” he said. “I put it on the second story of the building, mounted it on cleats, and every year he just locks it in.”
What Giants Are in the Works?
Right now, Magyar is working on a project for Canal Oil that will be a new take on the Giant theme.
“They wanted a big truck, and asked me to make it life-size. That would be pretty big,” he said. “So what I did was make a little truck about two feet high and six feet long, and I’m going to have a big 15-foot Giant holding a hose, so it will work with the truck in perspective. They loved the idea, so I’m working on that now.”
When all is said and done, the design will be in two parts and will be about 19 feet long. Magyar said the new technique will open up a lot of possibilities for future designs.
“I’ve done a pod of whales, designs with multiple components, but never something in perspective like this is going to be,” he said.
Magyar Doesn’t Have a Giant Monopoly
Although Magyar has made most of the Giants seen across Sandwich, he didn’t make all of them. Some of the ones in our gallery, such as the dragon, the swan and the toothbrush, were made by other people.
“I say the more, the merrier,” he said. “The more people make them, the better it is. We have a lot of space here that we can fill up with Giants.”
Magyar said what makes the idea of the Giants so great is how they can be personalized to the individual or business that orders them, and that’s something you can’t get out of a store or a catalog.
“It’s something beyond the usual reindeer or Christmas tree,” he said. “It’s an individual image.”