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Holiday spirit abounds

The Millerton News Editorial

For what seems like the first time in a while, the holiday spirit seems to have been generously sprinkled all around the Harlem Valley — as those who live and work here, those who govern our towns and villages, along with those who manage many of our social services, nonprofits, libraries, churches, police and fire departments, our veterans, Scouts, food pantries and countless other grassroot clubs and organizations, have joined forces with innumerable local business owners and philanthropic groups to ensure that our communities can gather together as safely and responsibly as possible this year to celebrate the season together.

Whether one observes Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or any other religious holiday is not the point.

The point is that after 22 months of dealing with the COVID crisis and living under pandemic regulations, we have been dealing with extreme stress, aggravation, tension, pressure, fear, worry… it has been a terribly trying two years for all of us.

Many have lost jobs or income; others have lost health insurance; still others have lost their homes. Some have divorced or separated from their significant others. In the worse case scenario, some have lost loved ones. The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on many of us.

It’s also placed a burden on our children. They lost a year of going to school when COVID first arrived. Many spent that time in virtual isolation, which had to be scary.

Canceled classes were surely challenging to deal with, but axed holiday traditions also had to be disappointing for children, and confusing. Certainly parents could understand why parades needed to be nixed last year, as it made social distancing impossible. They also realized why visits with Santa at the local library or community center were a no-no. It’s difficult, though, to explain such things to children holiday after holiday, and disheartening to young boys and girls looking forward to the joys of the season.

That’s why it’s so wonderful so many worked so hard to ensure that many holiday events could take place once again this year. Yes, we still have to be careful. After all, the COVID pandemic continues to rage.

In fact, with the new omicron variant, which the World Health Organization (WHO) is calling a “variant of concern,” we need to be more vigilant than ever.

Just last week Governor Kathy Hochul urged New Yorkers to wear masks indoor public settings. That said, masks are also being advised at outdoor settings, like the various holiday events taking place around our region.

There have been many, with many more still to come!

On Friday, Dec. 10, from 1 to 3 p.m., the North East Community Center (NECC) at 51 South Center St. in Millerton will hold its Gingerbread House Decorating workshop. Registration is needed as there are limited spots available.

Then on Saturday, Dec. 18, at 1:30 p.m. at the NorthEast-Millerton Library, the popular adult all-volunteer Salisbury Band Christmas Brass & Hot Chocolate Society will perform their fabulous holiday show, weather permitting.

In Amenia on Friday, Dec. 10, from 6 to 8 p.m., and on Saturday, Dec. 11, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Maplebrook School on Route 22 will offer Winter Fest. Folks can walk through a campus winter wonderland, meet Santa, sip some hot chocolate, sing carols and purchase holiday gifts. For admission, people are asked to bring a new hat, scarf or mittens to donate to Adopt-a-Family.

The Amenia Lions Club also has its annual Memory Tree to benefit the Dutchess County Hearing Conservation Committee and purchase hearing aids for those who can’t afford them. Forms may be picked up at Jack’s Auto, Havens Real Estate or from Amenia Lions Club members. The club’s Facebook page also has forms, as does Lions Club President Lori Hale at bjdhale@gmail.com. (Names must be submitted before Dec. 17 to be included in the Dec. 23rd issue of The Millerton News.)

In Dover Plains, VFW Post 5444 will host the Not Ready for Winter Dance at its Post Hall at 3422 Route 22 on Saturday, Dec. 11, from 7 to 11 p.m. For details, call 845-877-6300.

The First Presbyterian Church of Pine Plains is again sponsoring its annual Mitten Tree, a 30-year tradition. The church collects new children’s and adult’s gloves, mittens, hats, scarves and socks and distributes them between The Pine Plains Food Locker and Willow Roots Food Pantry. Donations may be dropped off at the church’s back porch at 3039 Church St. (Route 199).

Just up the road in Copake, the free Christmas dinner (COVID-style) has started up again, thanks to a generous waitress at Dad’s Diner who has organized it for three years now. That waitress (or one of Santa’s special helpers?), named Colleen Quinn, may be contacted at 518-567-1208 or dosbambinos5307@gmail.com to order “one or 10” free Christmas dinners, as the flyer states. Incredible, right? One may also contact Colleen to make a donation and help pay for the dinners she is providing for her neighbors in need.

The holiday meal planned at the Copake Town Park on Christmas Day, Dec. 25, with pick up between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., includes a full ham dinner with mac & cheese, baked potato, green beans, bread and apple pie or rice pudding.

Reservations are required for planning purposes.

This year, the Millbrook Library will teach about and celebrate Kwanzaa with local children on Thursday, Dec. 16, at 11:30 a.m. during a reading of “Li’L Rabbit’s Kwanzaa.” To register, go to www.millbrooklibrary.org.

On Sunday, Dec. 19, at 4 p.m. Millbrook’s Grace Church will present a live nativity for the community to enjoy. Told with costumed characters and live animals, it will be held outside at 3328 Franklin Ave. and appropriate for all ages.

These are the types of ideas and gatherings the holidays are all about, and it’s heartwarming to see such generosity and community spirit in the Harlem Valley — especially as so many continue to struggle with the realities of the pandemic and all of the challenges associated with it. It’s just more proof of why living here is truly the best gift of all.

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