Tag Archives: massachusetts

12 Days of New England Christmas Traditions (Day 10): Edaville’s Christmas Festival of Lights

When the Bridgton and Saco River Railroad shut down in 1941, farmer Ellis D. Atwood bought several passenger and freight cars and constructed a railroad on his cranberry plantation in South Carver, Massachusetts. What began as a practical way to move supplies around the plantation became a local tourist attraction. After offering free rides to neighbors, Atwood opened his railroad to the public in 1947, complete with small amusement park rides. In the late 1940s, Atwood introduced an annual Festival of Lights to celebrate the Christmas holiday.

The railroad and the surrounding park went through many owners after Atwood died as the result of an accident in 1950, but the holiday light tradition continued. For a time in the 1990s, the park was shut down. Eventually, all of the railroad cars were sold off and the park was reopened with new passenger cars. In 2005, the current owner renamed the park Edaville USA and introduced updated rides and attractions mostly related to cranberry harvesting. Despite the changes, the Festival of Lights continued to be a popular attraction. Today the event features not only one of the largest light displays in the region, but also hot chocolate and cookies, and carol singing. Many children wear their pajamas for the nighttime ride.  After the train ride, families can explore light displays and enjoy vintage amusement park rides.

In 2011, the railroad introduced a new holiday attraction: a live version of The Polar Express. The popular children’s book comes alive in a 40-minute train ride around the cranberry bogs that culminates in the appearance of Santa Claus.

Photo: Edaville.com

Photo: Edaville.com

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12 Days OF New England Christmas Traditions (Day 6): The Lobster Trap Tree

Like many New England communities, Kennebunkport, Maine has a Christmas celebration every year. The Christmas Prelude includes a caroling by candlelight, which you’ll find in many communities across the United States. Some of the more uniquely Maine traditions, though, include a chowder luncheon, Santa’s arrival by lobster boat, and a Christmas tree built out of lobster traps.

The tree, located in Kennebunkport’s Cape Porpoise neighborhood, consists of a tree-shaped stack of lobster traps decorated with red buoys, wreaths, and Christmas greens. It is one of three trees that are lit during the Christmas Prelude celebration. The Lobster Trap Tree was introduced in the first Christmas Prelude in 1982, and has been a local icon ever since.

Other communities that have a lobster trap tree include Rockland, Maine (they boast the world’s largest tree made of lobster traps) and Gloucester, Massachusetts.

 

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Plum Island

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Another photo from my recent trip to Newburyport.

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Newburyport

I went up to Newburyport with a friend for a few hours this afternoon. I forgot what a pretty town it was; I hadn’t been there for years (maybe 6 or 7?). It was also a picture-perfect New England summer day.

Lobster traps

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World’s End

Like any respectable Bostonian, I understand some basic rules about weather:

  • Always bring an extra layer. 
  • Don’t walk on brick when it’s snowing.
  • Never trust a weather report. Unless it’s in the Farmers’ Almanac.
  • Jackets with removable hoods are very handy.
  • Everyone needs a mud room.
  • Drop everything and take advantage of the good weather while you can.

worldsend1

This last rule was my guide and compass yesterday, when I ignored the looming workload that my current projects demand and joined a good friend for a picnic and hike at World’s End out in Hingham. There was hardly a cloud in the sky for most of the day. There’s something about picnics and meadows that brings me back to childhood and that old amazement of discovery. When you’re a child, every tree, every bug, every bird and every footprint, every rut on a carriage road is new for you to name. As a city-dwelling adult, to have a few hours to be in the woods or by the ocean is a welcome respite. It was nice to visit nature — and childhood — yesterday.

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Today, on the other hand, is a good day to do our indoor work. It is muggy and wet, and you could smell the rain before it arrived. It makes me even more glad for yesterday’s adventure. It will hold me over, and help me remember there is also beauty in the cloud-darkened window, the relief of the thirsty trees and flowers, and the glistening brick sidewalks.

World's End, Hingham, MA

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City Upon a Hill

This time of year, the magnolias are starting to blossom on Commonwealth Avenue. Usually the pink and white cherry blossoms in the Public Garden are in bloom by now, but we had a long winter this year, so even the daffodils are still introducing themselves. But bright swaths of green are starting to cover the Common, and the iceskating rink at the Duck Pond is gone, replaced by water; soon kids from all over the city will be playing in its fountains.

It’s okay that some of our trees are still stark; the city is beautiful anyway with her shining gold dome, her growing skyline, her rugged brick spine, her slouching triple deckers. Spring is just getting warmed up.

Park Street Church

One spring, centuries ago, that over-quoted Puritan John Winthrop was leaving England on a journey with his fellow soon-to-be-residents of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Winthrop preached that they were destined to build a “city upon a hill.” A chosen place of God. An example for the world.

That proved true yesterday.

Marathon Monday, aka Patriots Day, is always fun here. When I used to live in the Brighton section of Boston, which is a few miles from downtown, I would sometimes walk home from my Financial District office on Marathon Monday so I could follow a good part of the race course. There are parties and onlookers every inch of the way. And there are still runners, even at 4 or 5pm. At 5pm you see the stragglers, and the stragglers are my favorite. They are so damn determined. Some of them are practically shuffling toward Copley, and many of them are dressed in wacky costumes, but by God, they’re going to finish the race.

Boston’s youth is always in display on this annual day of celebration. It’s also school vacation week, and a holiday for many, so families are out and about. In Lexington, early in the morning, locals dress up as Capt. John Parker and his crew (and as the dreaded Lobsterbacks) and reenact The Shot Heard Round the World. There are always local kids staring in wonder at the costumes and the muskets, just like kids from Hopkinton to Copley Square stare in wonder at the waves of runners, some of them parents, relatives, and teachers, as they push their way to 26.2.

There’s always a game at Fenway, and the Red Sox always play early, so fans usually make their way from the park to the race route just a few blocks away. The Red Sox won yesterday.

Marathon Monday is one of those unique things I love about Boston. It’s our way of remembering what happened hundreds of years ago and how instrumental this area was in our country’s first difficult years. And somehow we also turned that day into an internationally famous celebration of cordial competition, a day when hundreds of thousands of people from around the world, the country, and the state come to either participate in the race or cheer on the runners. It is also a day of charity. Countless Boston and Massachusetts charities run teams in the marathon every year, raising thousands of dollars for the Jimmy Fund, or the Animal Rescue League, or the Pine Street Inn, and hundreds of other causes.

Yesterday the lovely, fun, quirky tradition of Marathon Monday was attacked, and so was everything it has meant for generations of Boston and Massachusetts families and the visitors we so proudly host.

I heard the bombs from my apartment in Beacon Hill. I thought it was two peals of thunder – that’s how loud they were. How strange, I thought. There are so few clouds in the sky. Soon the news parted me from my naivete. My first reaction, of course, was fear; for the next hour my focus was determining that everyone I know and love in this city is okay. I’m lucky; everyone I know who was near or in the race is fine. My second reaction was sadness, watching the images emerge on TV, I cried, horrified that this was happening in my town, just down the street.

On Sunday, my husband and I and two of our friends had gone to Old South Church for a unique service that included a blessing of the athletes. The congregation and all the visitors put our arms up, hands extended in the ancient sign of blessing, and we prayed for the runners, their families, and the volunteers. And then we headed to brunch, walking down Boylston, down a stretch of street that was covered in blood the next day.

Looking at that blood yesterday, my sadness turned to anger. An anger that surprised me in its strength. How dare someone come here and do this in my town.

There have been many moments when Boston and Massachusetts, like any other places on earth, have not not lived up to that city-upon-a-hill promise that Winthrop preached about. Just ask the Native American tribes who taught the newcomers in Plymouth how to survive. Just ask African Americans in the busing crisis, or the Irish of the 19th Century, or the socially ostracized in 1690s Salem.

Oh, but what Boston and Massachusetts have done right. So many American firsts. From America’s first (and still beautiful) public park, to the first free public secondary school, university, printing press, telegraph, telephone, subway, canal, post office, police force. We were home to the first church for free African Americans,  the first abolitionist newspaper, the first public library (our beautiful BPL is closed today, part of the crime scene), to the first State Constitution (thank you John Adams) and  the first women’s rights convention. We had a lot of firsts in recent years too. The first state to recognize gay marriage. The first state to create a universal healthcare coverage system.

And, of course, there was the first battle of the Revolution.

Boston and Massachusetts have been exceptional, and the people who make up our community have led the way, so many times. Yesterday was no different. From the police and volunteers and firemen and EMS workers who rushed toward the explosions, to the runners who turned around to help, to the bystanders who rushed to try to stem the bleeding of their fellow celebrants, to this city’s first-class healthcare professionals who saved lives, to the thousands of Bostonians who offered their homes, the coats off their backs and their cellphones to stranded runners — I am overwhelmed with pride.

It is calm in Boston today, but it’s not normal. Like last night, I have seen some people in tears, and still in shock; the helicopters sit in watch above us, their rotors a constant droning buzz over the city. Sirens screech by at an all-too-frequent pace. Part of the Common is roped off as a staging area for the FBI and National Guard. But there were also people sitting and eating their lunches, tourists taking pictures of many of our beautiful landmarks, people going to work with a renewed appreciation for their ability to go back to their daily lives when others cannot.

There were more trees blooming today, and more green buds appearing. We will be okay. And for that I thank the exceptional people of this exceptional city that I love so much.

 

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