A Connecticut Christmas
Stepping outside into the crisp December air, you can smell pine needles and wood smoke and hear the distant sound of carolers on another street. You ramble past wreathed saltbox houses, along an icy stream, and over an old stone bridge lit by luminaries. Maybe you are returning from a Christmas Eve party, laughing and joking in the midnight silence, when you stop and stare into your own backyard, awestruck into belief by a herd of antlered deer.
You are in a special intersection of time and space, somewhere between Salisbury and Stonington, sometime between the day after Thanksgiving and the day after New Year’s. Mistletoe hanging in the foyer or stockings hanging on the mantel are not clichés here; they are real. In fact, this is where many of those clichés were born, where jaded city folk go to find their holiday spirit again. It is a place and time where you might witness the glad arrival of an old friend who moved to Florida to retire, and watch her stop in front of the tree on the village green and burst into tears.
For a few short weeks, our ears welcome favorite carols that seem incongruous at other times of year. Our actual language changes; suddenly we are wishing strangers good tidings and using words like tinsel, nativity, noel. Time to carry up the cardboard boxes labeled “decorations” from the cellar and go select a tree at a farm, an idea pioneered right here in this state almost a hundred years ago. And before we have a chance to enjoy the season, we are rushing to the mall for that one missing gift. Then it’s time for bed, but wait! Unwrapping one midnight present will surely bring visions of sugarplums.
After a short, restless sleep, we wait eagerly at the top of the stairs for the sprint down together. This might be the year you get your first bicycle or your last mortgage payment, but it is the sharing that matters, the time spent with friends and family, who gather in front of the fire and wait eagerly for the feast. Finally, a goose—an actual goose—comes brown and crisp from the oven. We stuff ourselves with huge plates of ham, deep-dish lasagna, or pierogi. But we’re not done! A nip of mulled wine or hot chocolate is followed by mincemeat pie, gingerbread or a plate of pinwheels, jam thumbprints and snickerdoodles.
Each family has its own favorites—the tradition is to have a tradition. Some are more familiar—sleigh rides through the forest, church plays of a Charles Dickens’ ghost story, and neighbors competing with outrageous light displays. Some are as unique as DNA, like the Santa by Fire Truck, Mystic’s Holiday Lighted Boat Parade and the Boar’s Head Festival. Hopefully, you will find your own traditions, your own memories, your own magic moments in these pages. Maybe you’ll feel something brimming inside, like the electrical current in the long string of colored bulbs. What is it? A longing for home? Yes, that’s it. But, wonder of wonders, you are already here.
A version of this article appeared in the December 2017 issue of CTC&G (Connecticut Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: A Connecticut Christmas.