Last year, the Deyo descendants donated a Christmas tree to Historic Huguenot Street. With the donation of the tree came a holiday tradition with hopes to bring the community closer together.
On Friday, Dec. 4, members of the New Paltz community gathered on the corner of Huguenot and North Front streets for holiday caroling and to experience the second annual tree lighting on the Deyo House lawn.
Carolers from the Reformed Church of New Paltz and New Paltz high school sang holiday classics such as “Carol of the Bells” and “12 Days of Christmas” before the lighting began. The lawn was filled with rampant laughter as children ran and played. Some yelled “Santa’s coming,” excited by the stout, red-cheeked man with a snow-white beard dressed from head to toe in red. He handed out candy canes and took pictures with kids and their families.
Mayor Tim Rogers and Councilman Dan Torres attended the ceremony and agreed that this year’s Christmas tree lighting brought in a much larger crowd than last year.
“It’s great to have an excuse to get the community together,” Rogers said. “Huguenot Street is a really important part of New Paltz and this just feels like the right way to start the holidays.”
Torres felt that Huguenot Street was the best place to have the tree lighting ceremony because of its historical significance.
“Huguenot Street is at the center of our town and has been for 400 years,” he said. “I think people enjoy that legacy and heritage.”
Kara Gaffken, director of public programming at Historic Huguenot Street, said that the purpose of the tree lighting ceremony is to celebrate the holidays with the community in the place where people first settled.
“The tree lighting ceremony is special because of where it’s located,” she said. “Other than bringing people together, the ceremony reminds people of our history and where the town was founded.”
For many townspeople like Maya Projansky, this was the first year they attended the ceremony. Projansky felt that the tree lighting and Christmas caroling were a good way to kick off the holiday season, especially on the town’s historic street.
“This event brings the community together around things that aren’t political,” she said. “It’s a positive event, and frankly, it’s not about religion but about community. It’s about coming together in a place that’s important.”
Projansky said the ceremony brought together people who may not interact throughout the year. For her, the holidays as well as the ceremony are more a means of celebration and remembrance for the community she is a part of.
“The holiday season is about coming together and appreciating people and appreciating where we live and the people we pass our years with,” she said. “It’s just something to enjoy and it’s a way to remember our community.”
In a diverse community like New Paltz, the holidays mean different things to different people, Projansky added.
“The ceremony may not be about the holidays for everyone, but about a sense of community that’s important to New Paltz and always has been,” she said.
This story first appeared in The New Paltz Oracle on December 10, 2015.