Oh, the Weather Outside is Frightful but Port is Still Delightful

Oh%2C+the+Weather+Outside+is+Frightful+but+Port+is+Still+Delightful

Josh White

A Plandome home exemplifies the local holiday spirit with decorations and lights.

Rachel Cho, Ana Espinoza, Rachel Kogan, Penina Remler, Rachel Cho, Ana Espinoza, Rachel Kogan, and Penina Remler

Look around you — leaves are falling off trees, temperatures are dropping on the daily, and the inescapable Halloween decor is suddenly being replaced by Christmas lights.  All signs hint to the return of the holiday season.

Port’s annual efforts of celebrating all of winter’s festivities comes in many forms: musical performances, visual showcases, late night shopping opportunities, and many acts of community service.

As soon as the Thanksgiving season came to an end,  residents come together in preparation for the winter holidays.

The annual Port Holiday Magic festival initiated the holiday season on Dec. 4 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

This year, the event promoted the concept of “shoppertainment” which strongly focused on encouraging residents to shop locally.

“It is important to support our local merchants and encourage residents to shop and dine locally,” said District Six Councilwoman Dina De Giorgio.  “A thriving local economy and an attractive Main Street maintains property values and our quality of life in Port Washington.”

To show their support, more than four dozen stores offered discounts and free activities.  Many stores extended their hours to give Port Washington community members a chance to do some holiday shopping after work hours and at their own convenience. Many local businesses even offered free refreshments and food to make the night feel like a holiday party.

Stores like Gail’s Stride Rite and Bluetique were open for kids interests and shops such as Frippery and Entrée stayed open for adults.

Shoppers also had the chance to enter a raffle drawing to win dozens of prizes including a $300 bonus prize. The only requirement was that all shoppers pick up an entry form at a participating store and, then, visit at least eight different stores participating in Port Holiday Magic between Dec. 4 and Dec.15. This new bonus and grand prize offer was sponsored by the town and the Business Improvement District.

 

Clowns from the Big Apple Circus, four Santa Clauses handing out candy canes and bear bracelets, a toy solider singing group, and a balloon twister entertain the crowds. Dancers from the Louise Bennes Dance Company performed original choreography for an enthusiastic audience on Main Street in front of the train station.  The Wright Brothers, the Schreiber Choir, and others performed live music.  Shoppers could also ride old-fashioned trolleys for free.

Snowflakes, Christmas trees,  menorahs, and other decorations fill Main Street.

But the holiday spirit does not stop there.  Every year around holiday season, the town presents the community with a gift: free parking.  Red bags with “Happy Holidays” written on them cover every parking meter from Main Street to Port Washington Boulevard.

“I really appreciate how you don’t have to pay for the parking meter because it’s the town’s holiday gift to us. Also the snowflake lights are very festive,” said junior Anan Ryan.

Many Port Washington families gathered at the Blumenfeld Family Park from on Dec. 8 to participate in the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

The event included singing, storytelling, a collection  of  tree  ornaments  and  hot drinks.

Near the end of the celebration, two towns members dressed as Santa Claus and Mrs. Claus arrived on a firetruck to meet the little children.

Additionally, another holiday tradition is the annual “Mile of Lights” of Flower Hill.

On the evening of Dec. 24, many families and friends drive through Flower Hill to find a “Winter Wonderland” of holiday lights.

Starting on Country Club Drive, many Flower Hill streets celebrate the holiday season and all religious beliefs with a trail of lights and decorations.

“It’s nice to see such a wide spread neighborhood come together to honor the holiday season!” said sophomore Harlee Tung.

Aside from the celebrations, the holiday season is also a time to give back to those in need.

Port annually hosts the toy and food drive, “Make A Child Smile,” which donates new toys or food items so all children have the chance to receive a gift during the holiday season.  This drive will be fundraising for its fourteenth year and has teamed up with Detective Anthony Guzzello, the Port Fire Department, and the Port Washington PBA to collect charitable donations.

The holiday joy and spirit continues within Schreiber’s halls as well.This year the annual window painting event was held on Dec. 10.

“I think it’s really important to Schreiber as a community because it’s one of the only events where all the clubs come together and work together under a common theme,” said social studies teacher and Student Council advisor Ms. Patricia Dietz.

This year’s theme was Disney.  Featured characters included Rapunzel from the film Tangled, painted by the Art Honor Society, and Dr. Doofenschmirtz from the television show Phineas & Ferb, painted by the Science Honor Society.  More than ten different clubs lent an artistic hand or two.

“It embraces the differences between people,” said junior Melody Sagustume. “All the clubs come together, and it embraces the unity in Schreiber. It also shows the creativity of the students.”

Another annual event that Schreiber has hosted for at least eight years is the Key Club holiday toy drive.

Students and staff are encouraged to donate new or lightly used toys, which the club sorts, packages, and subsequently hands over to the Social Services of Nassau County.  The club collects at least 300 toys each year.

“The holiday spirit is surely present at this event!” said health teacher and Key Club advisor Ms. Janine Kalinowski.  “It’s great for everyone to be reminded of the true meaning of the holidays, and how good it feels to give back to our community.”

“The Key Club Toy drive represents an essential part of the holiday season in the Schreiber community,” said senior and Key Club co-president Jackson Shain. “The event allows students to give back to those less fortunate because the toys are donated to students right here in Nassau County. It’s a really great way of connecting and fortifying our local student community.”

Finally, the festivity continues under the roofs of students homes too. Starting from the end of November or early December, many families begin preparing for the holiday season.

Bright lights and evergreen tree leaves seem to sprout on every street and corner in Port.  But behind the union of town and school wide events lies a plethora of cultural and family traditions.

With school recess and vacations from work, families tend to spend a great deal of their time together during the break and especially on the holidays.

“We would usually just celebrate at 12 a.m. on Christmas eve,” said junior Akari Shimura. “Then we would eat dinner and talk about life and what the past year has been like and what we hope will happen in the future.”

During the holiday season, the dinner table is one of the most important pieces of furniture.

We make tamales, calientes, atolio, and arroz  con leche,” said Sagastume.  “We eat these during the holidays because it reminds us of our country.”

“We are a very multicultural family,” said biology teacher Ms. Marla Ezratty. “On Christmas day, we all sit down and make this huge breakfast with Whigs, which are something like scones.  It’s a Scottish recipe. We eat them with jams and jellies that we’ve made over the summer.”

“Decorating the tree is what we do in the beginning of December,” said Ms. Ezratty. “But after we open the presents on Christmas Day, we have a tradition where everyone has to decorate themselves.”

“Being that we don’t celebrate Christmas, we always see a movie and go to a Chinese restaurant,” said sophomore Andrew Gruber. “They’re the only places open for Christmas.”

Much like for Christmas, family traditions vary from household to household for New Year’s.

“Being Russian, we celebrate the New Year a bit differently,” said freshman Maria Kogan. “The Russian New Year is extremely similar to Christmas. People would celebrate New Year’s during which they would decorate a tree and give gifts.”

But even with the various traditions in private homes, families and individuals from all over the community gather together to share a sense of festivity and union during the holiday season.It is important to maintain these holiday traditions to instill a sense of spirit and  excitement during the cold and dreaded winter months.