By Chelsea Kaneb
When darkness falls, the magic of the holiday season comes alive with
the twinkling lights and decorations and colorfully decorated Christmas trees like the brilliantly lit ones found on the Green in Downtown Waterbury. The lights and decorations at Christmastime stirs up holiday spirit and the feelings of being a kid again. When I was young, besides visiting Santa and his beloved goofy reindeer, Donner, in the basement of Howland-Hughes, there was nothing that kicked off the magical holiday spirit more than the lights on the Green.
Seeing the twinkling lights on the trees lining the Green and the sparkly lights on the iconic Carrie Welton Horse statue was a beautiful sight to see as you drove Downtown perhaps to attend a show at the Palace Theater, go out to dinner at a local restaurant with friends and family, or get some holiday shopping done. I would often make my family drive loops around the Green just to take it all in, over and over again.
Meeting Santa Claus in Howland-Hughes in 2011.
There’s also something that warms even the Grinchiest of hearts when a community comes together to celebrate, crank out some holiday tunes, drink some hot cocoa, munch on some sugar cookies and stand together to watch the main Christmas tree turn on for the season. Waterbury is known as a city of very distinct neighborhoods and the community tree lighting brings people together from all of these places.
Over the past few decades the tree lighting took place on the Waterbury Green, but the big Christmas tree started to get sick and it was eventually cut down. The tree lighting moved to the Silas Bronson Library Park and people were outraged. The City made sure to plant a new tree when the Waterbury Green was renovated a few years ago, it’s much smaller, but it will grow with the community.
The tree lighting has now moved back to it’s original location in the heart of Waterbury, on the Green, and after a few years of separation due to the COVID-19 pandemic it will be healing to come together safely outdoors to celebrate and kick off the holiday season this year.
Local Holiday Activities:
*On Sunday, November 28th at 5:00 pm, the City of Waterbury and The Arts and Tourism
Commission will be hosting their annual tree lighting ceremony on the Waterbury
Green, at 1 West Main Street, Waterbury, CT 06702. The event will have Horse and
Carriage Rides, a visit from Santa Claus, Christmas Carols, Popcorn Balls, Hot Chocolate, Donuts from Neighborhood Council, Music by the American Federation of Musicians Local 186 and PAL Choir. A free Frankie’s Hot Dog will be provided to anyone who brings a non-perishable food product.
*The Palace Theater in Waterbury will host a few holiday themed performances such as A Christmas Story Musical on December 3 &4 and The Nutcracker, the magical dreamy tale of Clara performed by the Woodbury Ballet on Saturday December 11th.
*Ice is Nice- A Family Winter Extravaganza- Dec. 18 @ 1-4 PM- Join the Mattatuck Museum and the YMCA for family arts and crafts and an ice carving demonstration by Ice Matters. https://www.mattmuseum.org/calendar/ice-is-nice-a-family-winter-extravaganza/
*A showing of “The Muppet Christmas Carol” film in Torrington on November 27th at the beloved Warner Theatre, a staple of Downtown Torrington- Doors open at noon for a visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus and the movie will begin at 1 PM. Free admission. Later that night there will be a viewing of “Christmas in Connecticut” with another opportunity to meet the big man and his Mrs at 6 PM and the film starts at 7 PM.
*Holiday Lantern Tour of Downtown Torrington put on by the Torrington Historical Society on December 4 from 5-6:45 PM.
*The Nutcracker performed by the Nutmeg Conservatory for the Arts will come to The Warner Theater in Torrington December 11, 12, 18 and 19th.
*Carl Bozenski’s Christmas Village: A Tradition in Torrington (December 12-24th)- This free holiday attraction no longer requires reservations, it is first come first serve.
*The Litchfield Holiday Stroll on the Litchfield Green from 2-Dusk- A true town tradition with cookie decorating, horse and buggy rides, a visit from Santa, and capped off with the lighting of the tree on the Green.
*Santa Express and the Northern Lights Limited (Nov 26-28, Dec 3-5, Dec 10-12, Dec 17-19 and Dec 22-23) at the Railroad Museum in Thomaston.
*Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer in a musical adaptation performed at the Thomaston Opera House in Thomaston (Dec 4, 10, 11, 17, 18 at 7 PM and Dec 5, 12, 19 at 2 PM).
*Bethlehem Christmas Town Festival (December 3)- And don’t forget to have your holiday cards stamped at the Bethlehem Post Office.
*Open Studio at Whiting Mills in Winsted (December 4-5)- Whiting Mills is a home to local retail shops, artisans, craftspeople and has become a center for community and social events and an artistic hub in the Northwest Corner of Connecticut. A great place to support local artisans and scoop up some unique gifts for people on your list this year.
*30th Annual Holiday in the Depot- (December 10) Washington Depot
*Holiday Lights at Lake Compounce (November 26-January 1)- Don’t miss Gingerbread Weekend- enjoy delicious gingerbread themed foods and beverages and build your own gingerbread house (December 17-19)
*Santa’s Walking Wonderland- Indian Rock Nature Preserve in Bristol (December 3 5:30-7:30 PM, December 4 4:30-7:30 PM, December 9 & 10th-5:30-7:30 PM and December 11 and 12th- 4:30-7:30 PM). Reservations are required for the stroll around the farm and visit with Santa.
*Winterfest and the Tunnel of Lights at the Connecticut Trolley Musum in East Windsor- (November 26-December 30th).
*Visit with Santa, The Grinch and the entire petting zoo at Flaming Farm in Simsbury, December 4 &5 and 18 &19th (10-1PM)-Tickets available online (Ordered tickets for December 19 at 10:30 AM)
*The Festival of Trees and Traditions at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art will be held on December 5th from 12-5 PM. All items are for sale and support the museum.
*Shark-Diving Santa at the Norwalk Maritime Aquarium (November 26-January 2, 2022).
*Holiday Happenings at Connecticut Beardsley Zoo- On December 4-5th, 11-12th, 18-19th, the Zoo will offer festive holiday fare in the Elf Kitchen featuring hot chocolate, gingerbread, sugar cookies, savory soups and other festive holiday specialities. Santa’s Sleigh will be set up for family photos. Thirty wreaths will be displayed from Wreaths Across America to honor U.S. Veterans and honor those who serve. On December 4 and December 18th, the Zoo will hold a Pajama Parade with Frosty the Snowman, Stripes the Tiger and Thirsty the Penguin marching alongside Grand Marshal Oliver, founder of Oliver’s Pajama Project. Guests are encouraged to wear pajamas and bring pajamas to the parade to donate, then families can take a festive pajama photo. Tickets must be reserved in advance for Zoo entrance and masks are encouraged and required in indoor settings and when social distancing can’t be maintained.
New London County:
*2021 Festival of Lights at the Olde Mistick Village- Admission is free and the event is held from 5-9:30 PM.
Christmas for the Pups-
December 5 & December 26th- Pawliday Lights at Lake Compounce- Bring your furry friend to the park, take photos with Santa, enjoy a puppacino and meet adoptable dogs from Dog Star Rescue just in time for the holidays.
Inspired by the Fun with Food cookbook by Sarah Michelle Gellar
2 cups all-purpose flour or gluten free flour mix
1/3 cup minced crystallized ginger
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
3/4 cup organic coconut oil
1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs (Use flax egg or applesauce as egg replacement)
1 can of pure organic pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
1/3 cup molasses
*Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar for garnish
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease and flour two 8×4 inch loaf pans or line with parchment paper.
Mix together in a large bowl, the flour, crystallized ginger, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices.
Mix the coconut oil and brown sugar together in a stand mixer. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until well blended. Add the pumpkin and molasses and beat until combined- bear in mind that the mixture will look slightly curdled and that’s exactly how it should look. Add the dry mixture to the wet mixture and beat at a low speed until blended.
Divide the batter evenly between the two loaf pans that you’ve prepared. Bake for 1 hour and 20 minutes or until a knife or toothpick or in our case an unused chopstick is inserted into the center and comes out clean. Let them cool in the pans for 10 minutes and then remove and let cool completely on a wire rack. Dust with powdered sugar if you’ve chosen to do that and cover tightly to keep it fresh for a few days or freeze double wrapped in plastic in a freezer bag and freeze for up to two weeks. These loaves will make your entire house smell like Christmas and a it’s a nice treat to enjoy a slice with your morning cup of coffee or to share a loaf as a holiday gift.