Im­merse your­self in Hol­i­day Splen­dor

The Day - Sound & Country - - - By EILEEN McNA­MARA

NNew Eng­land is prob­a­bly one of the pret­ti­est places in the coun­try to ex­pe­ri­ence the win­ter hol­i­days. And nowhere is that es­pe­cially true than in New Eng­land’s his­toric vil­lages. That’s the idea be­hind the an­nual vil­lage stroll in Ston­ing­ton Bor­ough, spon­sored again this year by the Ston­ing­ton Vil­lage Im­prove­ment As­so­ci­a­tion and the Ston­ing­ton Bor­ough Mer­chants As­so­ci­a­tion.

Held on the first Fri­day in De­cem­ber, the stroll fo­cuses heav­ily on old-fash­ioned fam­ily fun in a set­ting that can only be de­scribed as quintessen­tially New Eng­land.

With its nar­row, tree-lined streets packed with his­toric homes and build­ings, the water­front bor­ough at Christ­mas time looks like some­thing that jumped right off of a Cur­rier & Ives hol­i­day print.

There are horse-drawn car­riage rides, a Christ­mas tree lighting, a visit from Santa Claus, carol­ing on the bor­ough green, freshly popped pop­corn, warm treats and hot chocolate.

Bor­ough stores stay open un­til 9 p.m. and of­fer light re­fresh­ments to rev­el­ers, saysWendy Bury, pres­i­dent of the mer­chants as­so­ci­a­tion and man­ager of the La Grua cen­ter, one of the vil­lage busi­nesses that will par­tic­i­pate in this year’s stroll. Down­town streets will be closed to ve­hic­u­lar traf­fic and stroll or­ga­niz­ers are hop­ing to in­clude a fam­ily-friendly movie for kids again this year.

“It’s kind of a lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing that night, from the Christ­mas tree lighting, to carol­ing and singing on the green,” Bury says. “It’s some­thing for every­one.”

Now in its 15th year, Bury says the an­nual stroll has be­come one of her fa­vorite bor­ough events, in large part be­cause of its fo­cus on fam­ily and hol­i­day tra­di­tions.

“It’s charm­ing and sweet,” she says. “You get to see a lot of fa­mil­iar faces and ev­ery­body’s in a good mood that night. Ev­ery­body’s happy. Kids are happy, par­ents are happy. The moms shop and the dads walk. It just looks good, smells good and feels good. It’s just a feel-good night.”

Most of the stores put out re­fresh­ments for shop­pers to en­joy and while many peo­ple come just to take in the sights and the am­bi­ence of the evening, just as many also end up mak­ing head­way on their gift-giv­ing lists, Bury says.

“No one has to buy but peo­ple do end up do­ing Christ­mas shop­ping that night,” she says. “It’s one of our big­gest nights, re­tail wise.”

As in pre­vi­ous years, there will be raf­fles of do­nated goods from lo­cal stores. Last year, Bury says, one of the gift bas­kets that was raf­fled off in­cluded $1,000 worth of mer­chan­dise. An­other store, she says, raf­fled off a ca­noe.

“This is the night where the mer­chants give back to our cus­tomers.”

The fes­tiv­i­ties kick off at 5 p.m. and at 6 p.m. stroll or­ga­niz­ers light the vil­lage’s Christ­mas tree on the green. Af­ter, rev­el­ers sing Christ­mas car­ols, says Roberto Fre­itas, a mem­ber of the Ston­ing­ton Vil­lage Im­prove­ment As­so­ci­a­tion and chair­man of the group’s hol­i­day stroll com­mit­tee.

“It’s a re­ally, re­ally homey and fam­ily-ori­ented event,” he says. “Last year the Christ­mas tree was spec­tac­u­lar. I hope I can du­pli­cate it.”

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