Christmas Eve and it’s cold outside. The house is cozy with a twinkling tree, lots of presents and excited kids. Dinner plans are set for the following afternoon. Time to stay in and enjoy all that one has?
If you live within driving distance of Woodstock, forget about it. Ditto if you thought that you got past the Hanukkah season and no longer need to pay attention to all this Santa stuff. After all, if you’ve ever been, how can you not go again to Woodstock’s big Christmas Eve spectacular, which starts at 5 p.m. and is over by 6:30? And for those who’ve never been – how could you miss one of our region’s great spectacles?
It has been running for decades now, and has incorporated all the know-how of a town raised on rock ’n’ roll tours and the pet projects of men and women who have made pigs fly for Pink Floyd or been to the pyramids with the Dead. It has grown ever-bigger, and yet always stayed down-home at heart – just like Woodstock’s great Halloween parade, its summer Volunteer’s Day townwide picnic and other key community events in the place that has long prided itself on having given a big festival both its name and genuine spirit.
It starts as people gather around dusk, the masses filling out the entirety of the area around the Village Green – blocked to all traffic – as it grows dark. Carolers stand in period costume out in front of the Reformed Church, some lights are set up on the center of things; but otherwise everyone huddles in small groups and sips coffee or cocoa, breathing out plumes of mist.
Impatience fills kids’ jittery bodies – but great excitement, too. People remember past appearances by Santa in a floating VW Bug, on a rooftop, out of a cannon, brought in on a dove. The time seems to pass slowly, but also gains in added magic as time passes.
Finally there’s a great hubbub off in the distance and the far-off sound of rock ‘n’ roll approaches. It’s a crack band, usually with horn section and backup singers – all in elf costumes.
And then he comes, some different way each year. And everyone crowds atop each other for a glimpse, and then the massive pile-on to get free stockings from Mrs. Claus and her helpers.
Some people are freezing by now, but never enough to draw tears. And then one’s heading home, and back in front of the fire by 7 at the latest – after which he comes again, of course. But that’s another story…
Woodstock Christmas Eve & Santa’s Arrival, Wednesday, December 24, 5-7 p.m., free, Village Green, Tinker Street/Mill Hill Road, Woodstock.