Apparently, for the last few years, I've felt the need to write about one of my favorite days of the year. The second weekend after Thanksgiving, several churches in our town, grouped around the town green hold a “Christmas on the Common.” Santa arrives on a fire truck and weather permitting, sits on his sleigh outside. None of that overheated mall action for us—kids dressed in scarves and mittens tumble about the grass (or snow) waiting for a picture with him. One church holds a used book sale, another a rummage sale, a third a meat raffle. All sell hand-crafted and baked items. Nothing about this day is high tech and to my thinking, it’s the best possible way to mark the transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas.
I’ve been attending this event for years, at first holding my daughter’s hand for visits with Santa. Once she outgrew St. Nick, my husband stopped coming, but she and I kept up the tradition, driving down to purchase a bowl of clam chowder at the Congregational Church, then stopping in for the band concert at First Parish. It became so much our “thing” that when she was away at school for a few years, even though I went by myself, the thought of her stalked me like a shadow.
Currently, she’s living and attending school in Rhode Island, but to my delight, early Saturday morning, she returned home to join me in our newest incarnation of the festival, a repeat from last year. It goes like this. It’s early. She’s sleepy, so we drive down town and claim a parking space, then head to the French Bakery for coffee before climbing a flight of cement steps carved into ledge. St. Stephen’s is at the top and we arrive there panting. There she pushes and prods me through the used book fair, holding me to a limit—on this occasion, apparently eight hardcover books. We return to the car to dump off my load before heading toward chowder and music.
This time, we met a sister-in-law and my husband’s mother there, and sitting around a table together, we all slurped on cardboard cups filled with a thick stew of cream and clams, topped with crumbled crackers. Then it was off to the concert. The price of admission? A donation to the local food pantry.
I’m not sure what I love more about this day. Acquiring my reading material for the next few months at a steal? The creamy, salty chowder? Listening to the reverberations of flutes and trumpets in the balcony of a seventeenth century church and singing Christmas tunes along with them? That my twenty-two-year old daughter not only enjoys spending the hokey day with me, but drives over an hour to do so?
Or this? Every year, by the time we get back sometime mid-afternoon, my husband, who is a champion at keeping Christmas in his heart, has decorated our home for the holidays.
It’s as if attending the festival sprinkles us with seasonal magic. We return home to a house transformed.