Friday, December 17, 2010

A New England Christmas

The holidays have, for some, become a political statement, a religious affront or a cultural slight. There are others who see the end of the year as the last celebration of the year; the last fling before the hard months of hunkering down for three months of cold, dark and waiting.

In large cities, like New York, Chicago and Miami, secular Christmas is about retail therapy, too much glitz and lots of faux glam. In New England holiday decorations are traditionally simple. It is the norm to see every window graced with a simple green wreath and a single candlelight that glows in the night. New England homes, for the most part, (yes there are tasteless pockets of blow up Santas and enough lights to heat Croatia) have been decorated in this simple style for generations.

Midcoast and Down East Maine add one element unique to the people who live and work here. Our town Christmas trees are built from lobster traps, festooned with fresh greens and hung with the buoys, each unique, of local fishermen. The tree topper, a lobster sculpture, shines over the harbors that are fished throughout the year and the seas that brought home too many for the last time.

The decorations don’t go up until Thanksgiving weekend. What a concept! We avoid the disconnect apparent in stores when Christmas decorations appear before Halloween. Thanksgiving Friday the children line the harbors to see Santa arrive by boat. As dusk falls scarves are rewound for warmth and the tree is lit. It is a moment reminiscent of Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus. Marvel and delight permeates town as the tree a monument to community, the celebration of the holidays, Yankee ingenuity and the fishermen who risk their lives every year to bring lobster to tables across the county radiates through the night. It is a beacon of hope, wonder and respect.

Whatever your feelings about the holidays step away from the noise of it for a moment and celebrate it in a way that is true to your heart. It doesn’t have to be the inundation of commercials or painful trips to malls. Find someplace that celebrates the season with simplicity and honors its community. The simplicity is peaceful and true.