Happy Endings & New Beginnings


Article Contributed by
Walt Pickut

‘Tis the season to be jolly!

It’s the time for great traditions and happy celebrations, good cheer and good will. Winter begins this week on December 21, the shortest day of the year…and the days will already start to get longer when the New Year begins. The Holiday Season is a very special time.

The Jamestown Gazette set out this year to share some of our readers’ favorite memory-making traditions for the holidays.

Smörgåsbord and Julbord
“It was all about food for us,” Zoe said with a big smile. The traditional Swedish Christmas table, the Julbord, became the all-Scandinavian holiday Smörgåsbord in local reader Zoe’s fond childhood memories. Her Swedish father and Norwegian mother blended their traditions in what she came to call their “Viking Christmas Dinner”.

Korv and homemade pickled herring, popular in varied forms all across Scandinavia, headed the list but followed not far behind by the nearly mystical (or mysterious) lutefisk, the gelatinous, salted whitefish aged in lye. “Yummm, old fish jelly,” Zoe said with a mischievous wink. “Who wouldn’t love that? Then we would all sing “Jul, jul, strålande jul”, “Christmas, Christmas, Brilliant Christmas” and the kids opened their presents.

A Christmas Vigil
“For us, Christmas was a very religious holiday when I was a kid,” Anthony L. said. “After my grandparents moved to Jamestown back in the 1920s my Grandmother made sure La Vigilia was a family tradition, but naturally she made sure food was always a big part of it, too.” La Vigilia is the Christmas Eve vigil recalling the wait for the midnight birth of the baby Jesus. Today, many Italian Americans call it “The Feast of the Seven Fishes”. Traditionally, the dinner is a “feast” of seven different seafood dishes. “We don’t quite celebrate it that way anymore,” Anthony said. “My wife and kids are just all-American, but we still do go to a midnight Christmas mass when we can, so we’re making our own Christmas memories.”

All About Giving
“It’s been fantastic,” Jamestown’s Georgianna Guiffrida Culpepper said. “It’s wonderful the way people step in to help as soon as the cold weather comes.”

The season’s spirit of giving has given birth to what is rapidly becoming both a Jamestown and a nationwide winter tradition. Clothes lines strung up in improbable places like downtown lamp posts and parking meters are hung with gloves, hats, scarves and even boots that suddenly appear and then disappear almost as quickly for use by anybody who truly needs it. It is called “Keeping Each Other Warm” and was brought to Jamestown in 2014 by Georgeanna and her friend Audrey Ralston.

“We have bags and bags of donated winter wear items to hang on the lines,” Audrey said. “And anybody with something to contribute can just hang it on any line they see [learn more on Facebook: Keeping Each Other Warm Jamestown]. “It makes for wonderful family time, too,” Georgeanna said, “taking your kids out on a cold, wintery day and putting out warm things for people who need them. I’m glad we can help.”

The Sounds of Music
Few Christmas traditions are more universal than Christmas Caroling, according to the Gazette’s unofficial holiday sidewalk poll. Whether traditional or pop, accompanied or a-Capella… singing happily in the snow and strolling through a wintery night seems to be an ever more popular tradition around our town and our neighborhoods.

Traditional Old English Caroling, German Weinachtslieder, Hispanic Asalto Navideño and strolling choirs singing all-American Christmas Carols all meld into a community wide tradition of singing in the holidays.

Many caroling groups end someplace warm with hot food and steaming cups of cheer in church basements or neighbor’s homes.

Frank S., who says his family has lived on Jamestown’s Northside for at least four generations, opens his doors to friends every December 24 to wrap up their caroling with specially whipped and frothy hot chocolate for the children and traditional hot toddies for the grownups. “I add a little something,” Frank admits with a Santa Claus twinkle in his eye, “that warms us from the inside, too. It’s amazing how some old Irish apple brandy can improve the flavor of honey, cloves and cinnamon.”

Welcoming the New Year
“Do not watch the New Year’s Eve ball drop on Times Square this year,” local resident Nancy Marie advised Gazette readers quite seriously. “That’s the time for a kiss that has to stretch from one year into the next. It’s my favorite tradition.”

New Year’s Eve traditions apparently come in many forms for the people of the Greater Jamestown area. “We pack everybody into the car early in the morning every January 31,” explained Bob and Mary, a West Ellicott couple we met herding their children through a crowded Bigg Boxx story to see Santa last week. “We either go to Buffalo, or a couple of times all the way to the Big Apple, for the big midnight party in the streets. It’s hectic and crowded, but we love it.”

At the other end of the celebratory spectrum, Bobbi T. simply said, “It’s a good night for a quiet dinner at a good restaurant, an early movie and off to sleep way before midnight. No crowds, no noise, just a little peaceful alone time for the two of us. Kind of special.”

The spirit of worship and great music will also take the stage for many local residents in celebration of both the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in downtown Jamestown, on Friday, December 30 at 8 to 9:30 p.m., will host a community sing of Handel’s Messiah lead by the St. Luke’s Choir, conducted by Andrew Schmidt, director of music, accompanied by renowned local organist, Brian Bogey and soloists, soprano Victoria McElvain and tenor Edward Coverdale. The program will include the Christmas portion of the piece as well as the beloved Hallelujah Chorus and the Amen. Sheet music will be provided. This event is open to the public at no cost. A free-will offering will be accepted.

What Nobody Said
Regardless of with whom the Gazette staff spoke for our informal, strolling winter sidewalk poll, and regardless of whether the holidays included Christmas, Kwanzaa, Chanukah, New Year’s Eve or even no celebration at all, we never heard a bah humbug and met no Jamestown Scrooges anywhere. Congratulations, happy year endings and New Year beginnings to all.

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Walt Pickut’s writing career began with publishing medical research in1971 while working at the Jersey City Medical Center and the NYU Hospital and School of Medicine. Walt holds board registries in respiratory care and sleep technology as well as bachelor's degrees in biology and communication, and a master's degrees in physiology from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in New Jersey, with additional graduate work in mass communication completed at SUNY Amherst. He currently teaches Presentational Speaking in the Houghton College PACE program at JCC and holds memberships in the Society of Professional Journalists and the American Society of Business Publication Editors. He lives in Jamestown with his wife Nancy, an MSW social worker, and has three children: Dr. Cait Lamberton in Pittsburgh, Bill Pickut, a marketing executive in Chicago, and Rev. Matt Pickut in Plymouth, IN.