Always nice to be reminded that in addition to being a globally recognized landmark, the setting for the starts of progressive, literary and music movements, and the campus for a leading academic institution, Washington Square Park is still in and part of a neighborhood. And all neighborhoods are just neighborhoods and when it comes Christmas time you set up a tree and get together and be neighborly. The difference with Washington Square is you share your neighborhood park with thousands of tourists and students and commuters.
After a couple of days of respite from impending winter, gusts swirled and chill returned and the crowd waited in the cold for the lighting of the Christmas tree. There was a countdown, led by a councilmen or some local politico I couldn’t see and the childhood Christmas moment appeared, was shared. There was a Santa Claus in the crowd; the homeless, the mentally disturbed and the pot dealers who are still evident in the shadows of the park, were nowhere in sight. Just village people, quirkies and people with jobs and parents with their kids, most of whom are young enough to genuinely believe in Santa Claus. Village types – I guess I could tell they were from here just as they can tell I am from the Jersey Side, if either of us desired to identify the other. The zip code is just a veneer. Community exists by points of manifestation – and any community is just a subset of the larger community. The other is a construct. Why diminish our shared humanity?
The lights are turned on, the ceremony completed and everyone giggles, jokes around. The tree is the world, and the world is no longer in darkness. Christmas begins. Christmas has a lot of beginnings – the end of Halloween, Santa Claus arriving at the end of the Macy’s Parade on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, the first holiday party, Midnight Mass, the Eastern Rite Christmas on January 6th. It fades into harsher winds, freezing tempertures and thick blizzards of snow and ice, and the long wait for spring, but before then there’s just a series of welcoming celebrations where joy is expressed or at least convincingly faked
New York city, the capital of the world, the capital of capitalism, where the commercialization of Christmas knows no limits, for about an hour or so in the wind and the chill a community gathered to remind each of other how good will, tidings of joy and peace on earth happens. They reminded us of why we seek out these moments. It's what we all want to experience this time of year: the true meaning of Christmas.
The winds rustled the branches and the clusters of multi-colored lights, lurched and swayed. Song books had been passed out, and Jingle Bells began. You could hear untrained, regular out of tune voices alongside a few perfect pitch professional singers. The meshing was actually joyous. An operatic soprano both rising above the din and seeking out harmony, uplifting yet heading towards the larger cluster of more earthly voices, laughing all the way