New Paltz, Gardiner, Highland & Rosendale celebrate the start of the holiday season

christmas-VRTWhile some Paltzonians have been expressing disappointment with the small, rather sad-looking silver-on-blue snowflake pennants lining Main Street this holiday season — replacing the large, lit snowflakes of years past — the New Paltz Downtown Business Association is making sure that the village shopping district will be all aglow and a-glitter for New Paltz Downtown Unwrapped this Friday evening December 5. And the New Paltz Times has managed to score an exclusive private interview with a world-famous celebrity who will be putting in an appearance: Mrs. Santa Claus herself.

“Of course we would like to see it more lit up, comparable to other towns in the area,” said Unwrapped’s organizer, Melinda Minervini. “We are all making an effort to have really festive windows and have that serve to decorate the town.”

The annual event gets its name from the longstanding tradition that downtown retail shops keep their holiday window displays shrouded behind brown butcher paper until they are “unwrapped” to the oohs and aahs of onlookers just prior to the evening’s festivities. But if the mystery of what’s in those windows proves too tantalizing and lures some potential shoppers into the stores for a peek behind the paper before the first Friday night in December…well, those merchants surely aren’t going to complain!


Black Friday may be the kickoff for the holiday shopping season at malls across America, but for the Village of New Paltz, Downtown Unwrapped is when it really begins, and every day right up until Christmas Eve is Small Business Saturday. “That’s the day we start being open until 9 o’clock at night,” noted Minervini, who is the proprietor of Handmade and More. “After that a lot of stores will be open later.”

Downtown Unwrapped officially begins at 6 p.m. on Friday, December 5 with a group stroll heading out from the Water Street Market to admire the store window displays. Free maps of the route will be available, and participating businesses — many of them offering special deals, discounts, treats and giveaways — will display identifying signs. The procession will head up lower Main Street, down North Front Street and end up on Church Street, where there will be live music and refreshments. “There will be a tent set up, with hot and cold drinks and all kinds of treats. Team Love RavenHouse will have some music,” said Minervini. “We got the village to close up the street there, so people can mill and socialize. I’m sure there’ll be a lot of picture-taking.”

What’s the special photo op, you might wonder? “The biggest thing about it is that we’ll have a grand visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus,” Minervini revealed. In fact, according to the First Lady of the North Pole herself, the busy couple will make their first New Paltz stop at the Christmas Shop at Dedrick’s Pharmacy at 5:30 p.m. “Then we’ll be whisked away to the Water Street Market by Santa Magic,” said Mrs. Claus. There she and her jolly old spouse will lead the cortege of window-shoppers through the downtown streets, before holding court and chatting with the little ones at the Church Street endpoint between 7 and 8 p.m.

“Santa and I have been to New Paltz several times. He’s very busy and can’t make it every year, but we looked up our schedule and found that we both were able to come this year,” said Mrs. Claus. “We love to walk through the village and have people join us. New Paltz is like a little community from long ago. It’s like an old-time Christmas.”

Mrs. Claus declined to divulge her first name, saying that she has a centuries-old policy of not sharing it with the press (presumably as some sort of magical taboo to help preserve the spell of anticipation for Christmas morning). One of the questions that interviewers most often ask her, she said, is whether or not she and Santa ever had any offspring. “The children of the world are our children,” she said.

For more information about New Paltz Downtown Unwrapped — and to follow the travels of Gunky Rock the Snowman as he visits all the participating shops — check out the Facebook page at


New Paltz Reformed Church Christmas extravaganza

Mrs. Claus will also put in an appearance at a special holiday event this Friday evening at the opening of the two-day Christmas Fair hosted by the Dutch Reformed Church of New Paltz on Huguenot Street (in fact, through Santa Magic, she may be able to be in both places at once). The festivities will begin at 6 p.m. with a gingerbread cookie-decorating activity and storytelling. From 7 to 7:30 p.m., the big Christmas Tree-Lighting will follow, accompanied by caroling. Then, until 8:30 p.m., the church sanctuary will be decorated and open for touring, with church historians on hand to answer any questions. Free hot cider and hot chocolate will be available to keep you warm and “soup on the stoop” will be available for sale, along with handmade crafts, wreaths, centerpieces, ornaments, hand-knit gifts, baked goods and decorations. The church’s traditional Christmas Fair will reopen in the Education Building at 9 a.m. on Saturday and run until 3 p.m.


Victorian Candlelight Christmas at Historic Huguenot Street

From 7 to 8 p.m. on the night of New Paltz Downtown Unwrapped, Historic Huguenot Street (HHS) will host a lecture by food historian Peter G. Rose on the subject of how the Dutch tradition of St. Nicholas came to America. The organization will hold its big holiday celebration, called a Victorian Candlelight Christmas, a week later, on Sunday, December 14.

Special Victorian-themed Christmas Tours will visit the stone houses, decked out in period décor, from 1 to 2 p.m. and again from 5 to 7 p.m. In between, a group will gather in the Crispell Memorial French Church at 3 p.m. for a Victorian Christmas Concert with historical musician Linda Russell, celebrating 19th-century Christmas in America. Tickets for the concert-and-tour package will cost $25 general admission, $20 for HHS members, seniors, military personnel and students.

As the sky turns dark at 4:30 p.m., carolers will perform in front of the Deyo House for HHS’s first annual Community Christmas Tree Lighting, followed by a reception of holiday treats and refreshments in the DuBois Fort. These portions of the festivities will be free and open to the public. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the HHS website at