2015-12-03 / Opinion

Christmas in Newport

For those who occupy the world that exists beyond Aquidneck Island, most think of Newport as it is portrayed in all its summer glory, and not about what it is like at this time of year, when darkness descends on the beaches, streets, and busy waterfront by 4:30 p.m.

But in Newport, those of us who live here for most, if not all, of the year know the truth: Winter, especially during the December holiday season, is a very special time.

If you regularly read Newport this Week, you already know that the “Christmas in Newport” calendar runs for several pages. The events listed this year number more than 100. There is literally something for everyone.

Founded in 1971, Christmas in Newport began as a two-week festival celebrating “noncommercial” traditions of the season. That was 45 years ago. With a nod to our city’s storied past, clear bulbs illuminate the scenic harbor and wharves, the restored Colonial structures of the Point and Historic Hill, as well as the Bellevue Avenue mansions. “The lights,” we are told, “are meant to simulate candlelight and were the brainchild of Christmas in Newport founder Ruth Myers, who wished to recapture the candlelit holidays of bygone days.”

Bravo for that, we say.

Nearly 50 years after its inception, nearly every day of December in the nonprofit Christmas in Newport calendar includes something related to the season. Today, December 3, as this newspaper hits the newsstands, we are told of a holiday “tea” at the Edward King House senior center, an acoustic Christmas concert, a nativity of Christ puppet show and the always popular Newport Doorway Contest, which is a public way for residents to share their holiday spirit with the community.

While most of the holiday calendar is Christmas-related, we also learn of Touro Synagogue’s community Chanukah program and Temple Shalom’s Chanukah party on Dec. 13. Both are free and open to the public.

One meaningful result of attending the concerts and events that dot the holiday landscape is that we find ourselves in venues, often places of worship, which we don’t usually frequent. From the mansions, the Edward King Center, and Seamen’s Institute to Touro Synagogue, Trinity Church, Emmanuel Church, or the chapel at St. George’s School, or Whitehall in Middletown, it can be a time of discovery and gratitude. We can enjoy not just the feast for the eyes, but also for the spirit, and be grateful for living in a community such as ours.

Bravo for that as well.

During this holiday season, when the world beyond our doorstep sometimes seems to have gone awry, there is no better place than Newport to embrace “peace on earth.”

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