“In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas” sang Bing Crosby in the 1950 Christmas song classic, “Silver Bells.” True to this day, when you walk around town or campus, enter the dining hall decorated with garland and miniature stockings or the Student Union Building alight with the “Decorate to Donate” gingerbread house display — the Christmas aura can be felt everywhere.
This past weekend, the spirit of Christmas reached Huguenot street as the historic site, in partnership with the Reformed Church of New Paltz, hosted their annual event, Holiday on Huguenot Street. This two-day celebration took place from Dec. 6 to 7 and saw a variety of different activities for community members to enjoy.
On Friday night, the street was set aglow with the Paper Lantern Light Parade leading from the Reformed Church to the Deyo House lawn for the annual community tree lighting. Following immediately afterward, Santa and Mrs. Claus made their grand entrance onto the Deyo House porch for free photos with guests. Other activities involved a craft fair, cookie sale, live music, historic tours and exclusively on Saturday: horse-drawn carriage rides and a petting zoo.
This year’s festivities brought New Paltz residents young and old to celebrate the season as a community.
“I think it’s a really nice opportunity for the community to come together around the holidays,” said event attendee Ross Hogan.
“That’s part of the reason why I live here,” affirmed Robert Egan, another guest at the event, “because of these events [that] bring everyone together.”
This truly is the time of year where friends, families and even strangers can come together and celebrate the spirit of giving as well as love and holiday cheer. But amongst the constant promotion of Christmas, other celebrations of the season are often left underrepresented.
Turn on most TV channels from November to December and you’ll find at least one Christmas commercial for every commercial break. Walk into most stores or restaurants and you’ll hear a steady playlist of carols over the speakers. Most seasonal items sold in stores revolve heavily around Santa’s big day with maybe one or two shelves featuring gifts or knick-knacks themed for other holidays such as Chanukah (which is further misrepresented in stores as always occurring at the same time as Christmas).
Additionally, finding holiday events on or off campus that don’t revolve around Christmas is difficult to do without a bit of digging.
This past week, however, the campus did see a flurry of non-Christmas themed celebrations. On Wednesday, Dec. 4 the Center for Student Development held a Winter Wonderland Celebration for first-year students. On Sunday, Dec. 8 the Jewish Student Union hosted a Chanukah Gala and on Monday, Dec. 9 the African Women’s Alliance served a Kwanzaa dinner.
From Dec. 2 to Dec. 9, the National Society of Black Engineers sold holiday candy grams with non-specifying holiday message options such as “my love for you is sweet,” “thinking of you,” “happy holidays” and/or the choice of a custom message like “you go, glen coco.”
But even with celebrations like these, it is hard to escape the general “feeling of Christmas” in the air. It still feels that with the heavy media promotion of Christmas and the surplus of Christmas events to be found, the holiday tends to overshadow all the rest.
This is not to say that all Christmas-themed celebrations should be replaced with general holiday or winter-themed events. It is not to say that any other holiday-specific event should be replaced with those themes. Each holiday has its own unique meaning and importance for the communities and cultures that celebrate it, and all deserve to be represented.
It’s important to have seasonal celebrations for everyone, not just those that observe Christmas. Whether these celebrations come in the form of holiday-specific events or general seasonal-themed gatherings, everyone should be able to feel included in the holiday season — or simply, in celebrating the end of the fall semester, which for me is the reason it’s the most wonderful time of the year.