Christmas is meant for community. We are brought together each year by the light that came into the world. This joy is to be shared among friends, family, and neighbors!
I remember sharing this joy and love in my hometown of Crosswicks, NJ. I have written two other blogs on Crosswicks linked here if you want to read more. American Anthem: More Crosswicks less Crosswise A Penny A Minute, A Lifetime of Lessons
I decided to write this blog after seeing several pictures of my old hometown from my childhood and current friend, Katherine Caldwell. Other pictures are in the video at the end, also produced by Katherine Caldwell with a new song to an old tune from me. But the one below of Main Street blanketed in snow got me dreaming of Christmas in Crosswicks.
I never tire of thinking of Christmas in my hometown. The snow glistening in the trees. The 100+ year old Christmas tree bursting into light! Neighbors singing Christmas Carols around a bonfire and later warming themselves with hot apple cider. The candlelight service in the 200-year-old Quaker Meeting House. There are four main reasons Christmas in Crosswicks is special and makes the holiday shine brighter.
1. Christmas in Crosswicks is Historic! Crosswicks was settled by Quaker immigrants back in 1677. Christmas celebrations and worship have been ongoing ever since. The Quaker Meeting House that still stands and holds the annual Candlelight service each Christmas was built in 1773. This years’ service went virtual except for the musicians due to COVID on Dec. 20, keeping the tradition unbroken.
The Christmas of 1776 is particularly noteworthy. Crosswicks was occupied by Colonial troops of General Cadwallader in preparation for the historic Battle of Trenton which one of the turning points of the Revolutionary War.
I am also proud that despite Covid, Crosswicks celebrated the 101st lighting of the large Christmas tree that sits in the Quaker fields near the Community House. To see the magic, look at this link for this year’s virtual ceremony. Crosswicks Christmas Tree Lighting.
One last historic Christmas moment relates to a historic building that was three buildings down from my home. Brick’s Mincemeat Factory was built in 1879 and until 1968 was the state’s largest producer of mincemeat. It is now a historical building but still holds special memories of the mincemeat pies we had each Christmas. Read more here – Brick’s Mincemeat Factory
The historic nature of Christmas in Crosswicks makes it special but not necessarily unique. I encourage all in this unprecedented year to learn more about the history of your town related to Christmas.
2. Sharing of Faith and Fellowship. Crosswicks had diversity when it comes to faith and denomination. I already mentioned that the city was founded by Quakers and the Candlelight service at the Quaker Meeting House is a fixture of the holiday season. But one of the things that I remember most about the holiday season is learning about Hanukkah at my elementary school each year. I still remember the dreidel song taught to us by one of my friend’s mother. Also, that Hanukkah was the Festival of Light represented by the menorah.
We also had the United Methodist Church which was attended by my good friend. I would sing with her father, a retired Methodist minister, songs like Go Tell it on the Mountain that we did not normally sing in my Catholic Church. We also had the historic Grace African Methodist Episcopal Church organized in 1868 located 3 buildings down the street from my house. The church was the first African American denomination organized and incorporated in the United States. I remember the Christmas hymns of joy echoing forth from the Church. We of Crosswicks were of different faiths and denominations but we shared our beliefs and joy openly during the season
3. Joining in Civil Community. We also joined each holiday season in civil community. Each year our family joined our fellow “Crosswicksians” in the annual bonfire and Christmas Tree lighting. We would all circle the tree at the Community Center and sing Christmas Carols both secular and religious. Voices rising together as one community we sang of hope and love! Later we drank hot apple cider and ate donuts as we shared fellowship about the encroaching holiday Season. To close the day, Santa Claus would ride on the back of the firetruck and toss candy to all of us. It was all a kid could want!
4. Exploring the Wonders of Winter with Friends. After all that candy, cider, and donuts, we needed an outlet to burn off the calories. Our rural town (imagine that in Jersey) offered a wealth of options in the winter month. No Netflix for us! We grabbed our skates and went skating on the Frog Pond behind the library or better, yet we sled down “the Hill” behind the old Firehouse. I remember leaving the house at 8 am on some days and not returning until 9 PM. The only break would be a grape soda and some candy at Applegate’s Market.
We even exercised when getting our Christmas Trees. No Papa Noel’s or Walmart for us. We went with our Dad to cut down a tree at Nicholson’s Tree Farm. I am envious of my cousin since she still lives down the street.
In closing, Christmas in Crosswicks was full of faith, fellowship and fun. That is why some forty years later, I am still dreaming of Christmas in the Crosswicks. You may be dreaming of Christmas in your hometown. Christmas in the year of Covid just feels different from those of the past. We are asked to remain apart and not to congregate. And when we are not standing apart, we are sometimes ripping each other apart with cutting remarks.
For all, the light of Christmas may seem a bit dimmer this year. And, despite our best efforts to set our homes alight like the Griswold’s, we cannot capture the brightness of a smile or the warmth of a human touch. Light does not come from a bulb! Rather it comes from hearts joined with the joy of Christmas!
I think God and nature conspired to replicate the Christmas star this Solstice, 2020 to remind us that when two planets conjoin their lights, the heavens are brighter. Let us conspire, like my neighbors in Crosswicks, to virtually cross our wicks to bring the light of hope! Let us share the spark of humanity with each other to break the isolation of Covid and the rancor of rivalry!
We may not be able to be together in real time this year, but we can strive to be together virtually. Reach out to old friends on Zoom. Say a prayer for someone in need. Donate to a charity. And most of all honor the light that has come into the world with worship and kindness for all. And until next year, I am dreaming of Christmas in Crosswicks. Let me close with a song.
The lyrics are below:
Christmas in Crosswicks
I am dreaming of Christmas in Crosswicks,
Just like the ones I used to know,
Where people got together,
In all kinds of weather,
To watch the Christmas tree aglow!
I am dreaming of Christmas in Crosswicks,
And the bonfires in the night,
May all your memories be bright,
And when we cross the wicks with neighbors, we bring more light!