Are we suffering from a dearth of Christmas spirit? It's not a question I would have thought of asking a couple of weeks ago. After all it's not until after Thanksgiving that is seems appropriate to get a tree, put out the lights and shop for gifts. I
Are we suffering from a dearth of Christmas spirit?
It’s not a question I would have thought of asking a couple of weeks ago. After all it’s not until after Thanksgiving that is seems appropriate to get a tree, put out the lights and shop for gifts.
I thought for sure this was going to be a cheery Christmas season given the early purchase of trees and talk of filling wish lists. Come to find out word of a possible shortage of Christmas trees, ships laden with merchandise stuck offshore and breakdowns in the supply chain, spurred many to get a jump on the season. It was a faux read on the feeling of this Christmas season.
The pandemic takes the blame for most things we can’t explain these days. Surely, even though so many of us have been vaccinated, it has put the damper on so much of what we do. Variants of the virus have us wondering if COVID-19 will be with us for longer than imagined. That thought alone is enough to send a shiver through the season.
Inflation has been a hit. With the dollar not going as far, there’s apprehension and a tendency to hold back, maybe even on Christmas spirit.
What really gave me reason to question if we’re all sagging this season was the photos with Santa event jointly sponsored by Warwick Police, the Warwick Boys and Girls Clubs and the Beacon last Sunday.
The Beacon started doing photos with Santa more than 35 years ago. I’ve been the photographer at all of them and vouch that they are fun. What’s exciting is seeing the joy and wonderment of kids even when Santa’s bushy eyebrows fall off (that’s happened). We’ve had some good Santas over the years. Santas who get kids talking, imagining they hear the hooves of reindeer on the roof and wanting to stay by his side for as long as their parents allow. In such cases they are deputized as Santa helpers to hand out candy canes and collect letters to Santa. And then there are the criers, those who have anxiously waited, yet want to flee when it comes their turn. They’re not hard to spot and I make a point of getting at least a head shot before the tears so we have something for the paper.
We’ve held the Santa shoots at multiple locations. For a couple of the early years we did it at the Ben Franklin’s at Hoxsie Four. Other venues include the Veterans High School cafeteria with the Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce breakfast with Santa and, of course, at the offices the Beacon has had over the years.
Usually a group of us show up early to set things up. Christmas music was a must as were munchkins and cider for the kids and candy canes for Santa to hand out. One year, as people lined up for Santa to arrive, our Santa who we believed would be wearing a suit showed up in casual attire. At first we thought this was a practical joke, only to learn he thought we had the suit.
We went into panic mode, and remarkably given such short notice, located a suit. Byron Batty and his wife Carol who ran a photo studio had the perfect suit. Albeit late, everyone was happy to see Santa.
This year was dramatically different. A lot of work went into transforming the gym at the Oakland Beach branch of the Boys and Girls Clubs into Santa’s workshop. Police made the event part of their annual toy drive, but with a twist. Kids were invited to throw snowballs – not the real thing – at the cops as they popped out from behind artificial trees and out of big boxes. As it turned out that was a hit. Kids and cops had a blast.
The turnout was disappointing. In total, fewer than 40 kids had their photos taken with Santa. Mayor Frank Picozzi wasn’t surprised.
He observed there just isn’t the Christmas spirit of prior years. Although given more publicity this year, Picozzi said attendance at his home digital show is down from prior years – even from last year when he had to abbreviate the show because people stayed in their cars. He observed that he hasn’t seen as many neighborhood home displays, too. He’s right.
He hasn’t let it get him down. He decorated his office and urged municipal employees to do the same. And when it came to doing a Christmas greeting video for Facebook and the city website, he called on department directors to join him. He was in for a surprise. Many were not simply satisfied with standing in front of the camera to mouth, “we wish you a happy and healthy holiday.” No, they wanted to make it a special occasion. Firefighters want to get out the word from a truck, others planned Christmas attire.
Frank has a contagious form of Christmas spirit. We could all use a little more of what he’s got this year.
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