Just before he spends a long night hurtling on a global trek to spread his joy, and lots of presents (plus some coal), to kids all around the world, Santa Claus does a spectacular early-evening arrival, quick gift handout and some world-class dancing to a whole mess of classic rock ‘n’ roll in quaint-at-the-holidays Woodstock.
Things build as town residents find parking all around the village center as the sun sets, knowing that it will be at a premium before 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve. That’s when people will start singing carols and warming themselves with hot cocoa and cider, all the time regaling each other with bear-hug hellos and hearty remembrances of Santa arrivals of Woodstock’s past. Those previous yuletide escapades have included everything from cannon shots to flying dove landings, magically psychedelic Volkswagen buses and an endless stream of inventiveness that plays witness to Woodstock’s role as a center for rock-tour special effects specialists as much as to the holiday spirit.
At some point the music kicks in, complete with horn sections and/or slinky background singers, and a certain anxiety ripples through the crowd. Has something gone wrong? people ask each other. Is this longer than usual? Are you freezing your toes off yet?
Finally the arrival comes, followed by long, snaking lines of children waiting to get their free stockings handed out by elves on the Village Green.
With everything still twinkly-lit, it’s as holiday-spirited, nostalgic and eternal as anyone could wish for. And it’s usually all over by 6:30 or 7 p.m. at the very latest. After all, the Big Guy does have a night of work ahead of him – and no time to linger, no matter how welcoming Woodstock and the Hudson Valley can be this time of year.
Santa’s Arrival, Saturday, December 24, around 5 p.m., free, Woodstock Village Green, Woodstock; ulsterpub.staging.wpenginechamber.com.