Auld Lang Syne

Stratford Year in Review

Stratford 2021

January 1, 2021: Connecticut General Assembly meets in January in a virtual session.  Committee hearings, floor votes, town halls, and even office hours were mostly conducted through Zoom, with lawmakers observing social distancing.  The Capitol Complex was closed to the public.

January 9th:  Constitution State Celebrates 233 Years

January 9th:  Big Win for Stratford Residents, a house located at 2019 Main Street, the Lillie Devereux Blake house; an important part of Stratford’s history. Built in 1856 by Lillie Devereux Blake’s mother, Sarah Elizabeth Johnson Devereux, it sits on what was part of the William Samuel Johnson estate and called Elm Cottage.  In June Kaali-Nagy Properties submitted an application to the Stratford Zoning commission with a proposal to build a 100-unit apartment complex at 2009-2019 Main Street referred to as The Village. The developers of The Village intended to raze the house and replace it with 6 residential units “that will appear to be part of the neighborhood”.  Their plans were posted on Stratford Facebook pages, an on-line petition was created on Change.org, contact information on the Mayor and members of the Zoning Commission were posted – and in one week facing broad public sentiment, a developer dropped plans to demolish the home.  The online petition garnered more than 1,000 signatures, and the town zoning commission approved revised plans with the requirement that the house be preserved and incorporated into the development.

January 22nd: Grand Opening of The Shakespeare Market, a rousing success that now has morphed into a year-round event.

February 26th:  During Black History Month the 29th Connecticut Colored Infantry Regiment, among the first Union Soldiers to enter a Fallen Richmond in 1865, celebrated and acknowledged.

March 25th: The Board of Education announced that Windsor High School Principal Uyi Osunde has been named the next Superintendent of Schools in Stratford. Osunde is replacing current Superintendent Janet Robinson, who retired in June after leading the district since 2013. His start date was July 1st.

April: Stratford PAL’s (Police Athletic League) PEP (Police Engagement Program) recognized and considered a National Model.

April 9th:  For the first time in 20 years, a Wall Street credit rating agency formally upgraded its rating of Connecticut’s finances. Moody’s Investors Service upgraded its ranking for two types of state bonds, a move that could generate reduced borrowing costs going forward.

April 15th: Stratford Adds New Recruits to Police Department:  The Stratford Police Department welcomes five new officers Officer Juan Ingles, Officer Pablo Conde, Officer Mark Pavelus, Officer Ryan Kardamis, and Officer Danielle Gordon

May:  Stratford designated a Distressed Municipality by the State of Connecticut for the second time in 15 years.  Stratford among the top 25 impoverished communities out of 169, and one of only two in Fairfield County.”

May 3rd:  Town of Stratford administrative offices reopened to the public and available by walk-in.  Staff, and those who visit town offices will be required to wear a mask covering their face and nose, and abide by social distancing protocols.

May 29th: Grand Opening of the Connecticut Air & Space Center is a non-profit Air Museum that displays vintage aircraft, memorabilia, and artifacts that pertain to Connecticut, both inside and out.  Honoring the founders, workers, and companies from Connecticut. Preserving the vehicles and artifacts they used. And Educating this generation and the next about this history.  Founded by the late State Senator George Gunther in 1998 after the closing of the Stratford Army Engine Plant, in Stratford, the Connecticut Air & Space Center occupies buildings 6 and 53 at the former Stratford Army Engine Plant complex. The museum is one of only a handful throughout the country to be located in a portion of an original WWII aircraft factory.

June 5th:  Return of the Stratford Main Street Festival

July 19th: Four developers vying for ownership of the former Center School property presented proposals to Stratford development officials at the Birdseye Municipal Complex.  The four original presenters where then whittled down to 2 developers who then presented their plans on August 27th.  To date no developer has been selected.

July 30th: Tidal Exchange Flea Market opens to bargain hunters on Saturday’s from July through to November.

August 22nd:  Dodged a bullet with Tropical Storm Henri, which was originally named as a hurricane.

August 31st:  Two developers presented modified versions of their original proposals, incorporating the requests of the Center School Property Selection Committee.  Romano Brothers Builders and Spirit Investment Partners/Kaali-Nagy Properties presented their plans.  The presentations were videotaped and posted to the Town website.

September 2nd: Not so lucky this time, Hurricane Ida drenched Stratford with almost 6 inches of rain.  Widespread flooding.

September 14th: Democratic primaries held in 8th and 9th Districts, both endorsed Stratford Democratic Town Committee members win challenges.

October 15th:  Backer Dedication, a section of Burma Road (Route 113) through the Great Salt Marsh named in honor of former State Representative/Soundkeeper Terry Backer

October 24th:  First Shakespeare Renaissance Festival on the grounds of Shakespeare Park.  Festival success leads to commitment to be presented on an annual basis.

October 30th:  Grand Opening of the Ruby and Calvin Fletcher African American History Museum, a collection of artifacts which reflect decades of turbulent times for African Americans in the United States during the period of slavery and the Civil Rights movement. It brings visitors up close and personal which is an experience that many have only read about in history books or seen in movies.

November 2nd: Election Results in Stratford: Blow out for Republicans.  Mayor Hoydick reelected in landslide.  Town Council remains 4 Democrats, 6 Republicans.

November 27th:  Ribbon cutting of the new on-ramp of Exit 33 interchange for I-95 in Stratford.after decades-long fight.

December 24th:  $2.5 million bonding request by State Representative Joe Gresko for groundwater and soil remediation at the Raymark superfund site was added to the State Bond Commission’s meeting agenda, and the allocation of the requested funds for our community and was approved.

Kick off 2022

Add These Events to Your New Calendar

Reel Time

Monday Matinees

Free Monthly Screenings of Popular Films 2022 at the Stratford Library

The Stratford Library welcomes 2022 with its popular film series offering free showings of recent, popular films shown uncut and on widescreen each month.  All shows will be presented in the Lovell Room at 12 p.m.  For information call: 203.385.4162.

No Time to Die

January 10th :  Daniel Craig returns for his final outing as 007 in this high octane action thriller.  PG-13, 163 minutes

Passing

February 14th In 1920s New York City, a Black woman finds her world upended when her life becomes intertwined with a former childhood friend who’s passing as white.  PG-13, 98 minutes

Belfast

March 14th: Kenneth Branagh’s sentimental homage to his childhood in war-torn Belfast.  PG-13, 97 minutes

Dune

April 11th, Thrilling adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi novel stars Timothee Chalamet.  PG-13, 155 minutes

West Side Story

May 9th: Steven Spielberg’s lavish remake of the 1961 musical classic.  PG-13, 156 minutes

The Power of the Dog

June 13th:  Benedict Cumberbatch stars as a cruel cowboy with a dark secret in Jane Campion’s critically acclaimed film also starring Kirsten Dunst and Kodi Smit-McPhee.  R, 127 minutes

Call to Stratford Residents: Save our Trees and Climate

Time For A Comprehensive Environmental Strategy

By: Barbara Heimlich
Editor Stratford Crier, Passionate Environmentalist and Stratford Resident

In Chapter 200-Trees, Shrubs and Woody Vegetation, of the Town of Stratford the statutes call on the Town to promote and protect the public health, safety and general welfare of the residents by providing for the regulation of the planting, maintenance, protection and removal of trees, shrubs and woody vegetation within the Town of Stratford.

The Town of Stratford is to “Recognize and appreciate that trees produce oxygen, capture carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, provide air purification, prevent soil erosion, control flooding, assist in water purification, contribute to the quality of life by providing cooling shade, provide habitat for wildlife, reduce noise levels, and aesthetically enhance the landscape.”

“Preserve and protect trees and their canopies as an important environmental and cultural resource that enhances the Town of Stratford’s natural character and heritage.”

“Protect the people in the Town of Stratford from personal injury and property damage caused by the improper planting, maintenance, protection or removal of trees, shrubs and woody vegetation located on Town-owned property.”

“Protect property values by maintaining a healthy and vigorous community forest.”

Lofty ideas and goals that would enhance our community and improve our economic viability. – If only the Town of Stratford lived up to and enforced their own statutes.

So what is my inspiration to wax poetic about trees in The Stratford Crier?  Was it all of the publicity concerning the lack of and shortage of Christmas trees due to climate change?

No, it was a posting on social media concerning the removal of 2 old growth Maple and 6 old growth Oak trees at Longbrook Park so that 4 new concrete tennis courts could be built, as well as seating and lights. Note: present courts at Longbrook are clay.

I was aware that the Town was spending money (to date listed as $750 thousand just for materials) to restore and rebuild tennis courts within the Town, with a goal of having the Longbrook Park tennis courts become home court for the Stratford High School Tennis Team, which, according to those also following the development, also called for bleachers and lights to be installed as part of the tennis courts being built.

What I did not know was that according to Tucker Chase, a local architect, “There are two existing clay tennis courts on Prim Street at Longbrook Park.   There are eight hard courts at Short Beach.  What these ten courts have in common is that they are ALL unplayable because the surfaces are filled with holes – in particular the clay courts appear to have been a training ground for land mine detonations.  Nets rarely appear at these courts which forces tennis players to compete with the schools for playing time at Bunnell or Flood or go to another town. For years the courts have been deteriorating.  If the town cannot take care of the courts it has in our public parks what will be the fate over time of any new ones?  It appears easier to pay an outside contractor, architect & engineers large sums of money to install something new rather than to maintain the good that we have.  I believe the quantity and diversity of the courts in the town are adequate to serve the tennis playing population, but since all of them are currently unplayable we are in the Catch 22 of a self-perpetuating debacle that the town proposes ‘fixing’ by destroying valuable trees that cannot be replaced.”

The Stratford Crier contacted Town Councilwoman Kaitlyn Shake, who also heads the Longbrook Park Commission.   According to Councilwoman Shake she had been requesting documentation since June, and was just provided information on Monday (December 27th) of the description and location of the trees.

The October 6th meeting of the Longbrook Park Commission it was reported by Park Superintendent Chad Esposito, Parks Superintendent, “Current status of Longbrook Park tennis courts: All bids so far have been over budget of 750,000 – therefore non accepted. Updated plan includes removal of 7 mature trees or more which was not included in original presentation to Longbrook Park Commission. Commission is following up for need of 8-24 review and public forum before any work.”

At the commission’s December 1st meeting Mr. Esposito reported:

“Kick off Longbrook tennis court project meeting was Tuesday November 30th. 9 trees will be removed. 14 trees will be replanted”  Questions and concerns were posed to Mr. Esposito re: (1) color scheme of the tennis courts (2) environmental mailer to area residents re: construction of the new courts (3) parking strategies.”

Ms. Shake raised the complaint that the commission was never informed of the final project plan and reiterated that moving forward updates should be emailed to her directly so they can be disseminated to commission.

This lack of information (how about being branded as transparency?) on the plans, despite no public comment, or supporting documentation submitted to Planning, the Town Council approved the plans and tree removal.

When first submitted to Planning they requested that the plan address the water issues for Longbrook and do an 8-24 Review for wetlands, as the project did not address the water issues that would be affecting the courts.  Despite Planning’s suggestions, the Town Attorneys were sent to the next Planning meeting on September 21st to claim that it did not need to do an 8-24:

(e) Longbrook Tennis Courts (Planning Commission Minutes)

Bruce Jackson, Assistant Town Attorney stated the definition of an 8-24 Review, and explained that the work at Longbrook Park tennis courts is not defined as a “substantial change to the park” but is rather just a change to one part of Longbrook Park.  Ms. Attota (Town of Stratford Planning) reminded members that the Planning Commission is part of the entire Town. The Town Council ultimately chooses whether it should be sent to the Planning Commission, and suggested discussing the matter with Parks Department Mr. Staley (Planning Commissioner) stated that it will he Stratford High School’s home court, but feels the process should be done correctly. Mr. Watson (Planning Chairman) noted that Town Council members are not planning experts. Per Mr. Boyd (Planning Commissioner), the Planning Commission was not aware of the plans until after the 35-day window closed. Mr. Watson accepted a motion by Mr, Gerics (Planning Commission member) to request the Town Council re-visit the Longbrook Tennis Courts plans. Mr. Boyd seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.

State Representative Joe Gresko, 121st District, weighed in on the proposal (as has others in response to the call for public comment):

“Although the town council has approved the tennis court project at Longbrook Park, I’m appealing the removal of the eight trees, especially the old growth oak trees, which as you know, are icons of the park.  Having worked together to secure the recent $37K grant from DEEP to plant more trees in Stratford to increase our canopy, these existing majestic trees are already accomplishing that goal.  I realize this last minute objection is not what those who worked on the project want to deal with, but I believe it’s critical to preserve as many old growth trees as possible.”

Representative Gresko continued: As a suggestion, altering the tennis court design and potentially moving it closer to the street would potentially alleviate the tree removals.  Stratford is a great town to live, among the reasons, “offering more from forest (trees) to shore.”

Tucker Chase: “It would make much more sense to repair the clay courts at the Longbrook location and not install any more. For those who want hard courts there are the eight at Short Beach & the eight total at the two at Bunnell and Flood schools.  Preserving the fragile ecosystem we have is worth so much more than pouring more than 500 cu. yards of concrete to replace the irreplaceable particularly when there are readily available alternatives – ie maintain the good that we have and leave the trees alone to do their magical work.”

Tom Yemm: “On behalf of my neighbors and myself, I am requesting a public hearing prior to the removal of the eight mature oak and maple trees in Longbrook Park, adjacent to the existing tennis courts, and posted for removal per CGS 23-59, Chapter 451. I do believe that on any occasion in which one or more of Stratford’s ancient legacy trees is scheduled for removal, there is a need for public input. This is one of those occasions; hence my request.”

For several years I have been following what I view as a reckless tree removal plan that has altered our landscape in town for years to come.  Not only has the Town denuded swaths of what formerly was a tree lined landscape that enhanced our Town’s appearance as a quaint New England town, but very few trees have been planted to replace those cut down

Below are a few examples of the town’s incoherent strategy to:

“Preserve and protect trees and their canopies as an important environmental and cultural resource that enhances the Town of Stratford’s natural character and heritage.”

  • Stratford Forward last Summer did a survey and found over 70 stumps or empty tree sites on Main Street from East Broad  to Lordship.  No new plantings.
  • This year, with the town assuming ownership of the Rebecca Bunnell House (next to Sterling House) we witnessed devastation of  another landmark. Denuding the space and leaving a bare house.
  • To date the following amounts have been approved by the Town Council for tennis court upgrades:
  • Wooster Tennis & Pickleball Courts: Hinding Tennis, LLC proposal dated 7/14/2021 in the amount of $304,410 to transition the existing courts on asphalt into (1) tennis and (4) pickleball post tension concrete courts.
  • Short Beach Basketball & Tennis Courts: Hinding Tennis, LLC proposal dated 6/3/2021 in the amount of $450,000 to transition the existing courts on asphalt into (2) basketball and (2) tennis post tension concrete courts.
  • LED Lighting Upgrade & Associated Site Restoration $ 400,000.00
  • Bunnell Tennis Courts $ 40,000.00

Our Lady of Peace Church:  Three long-established silver maples in front of the Church needed to be removed due to damage sustained during Tropical Storm Isaias.  three new trees are planted at the Church grounds.

Don and Missy Kowalsky, of Stratford, complained that trees on their property pose no risk to the power lines overhead – but Eversource disagreed.  The couple’s property sits on a right-of-way for an Eversource transmission line, 26 trees were marked for removal, with 12 more trees for later.  They had lived in their house for over 30 years and said the area they’re looking at extends from Stratford Avenue (Rt. 130) south to Sikorsky Memorial Airport — essentially all of the South End, not including the Lordship enclave.

A tree-removal campaign in 2016 also didn’t sit well with many in town. They were aghast after seeing Huntington Road and Wilcoxson Avenue denuded of their leafy canopies.

“It has been my practice to deny UI’s removal of any tree that is healthy,” said Christina Senft-Batoh, the town’s previous conservation superintendent and its tree warden. “I deny or request modification for pruning that seems excessive.  She added that homeowners should be vigilant to object to any removals proposed by UI that they do not agree with.

“Even if the tree is a town tree, UI will contact the adjacent property owner for input,” Senft-Batoh said. “The homeowner can object to a removal outright, or request modification to a pruning.”

Kelly Kerrigan is the Town of Stratford current Environmental Conservation Superintendent and Tree Warden and, from personal experience has been receptive to those who contact her regarding tree removal or modification to a pruning.

Eversource, the power company that feeds most of Connecticut, said that it’s concerned about trees that have suffered in the drought years of 2016 and 2017, many of which threaten power lines if they came down.  “Sustained drought conditions in New England followed by above-average rainfall this year, combined with insect infestations, are having a devastating effect on trees,” said Eversource spokesman Mitch Gross. He added that the wet summer has made matters even worse — in their weakened state, their branches now have a heavy crop of leaves.  “Suffering from weakened root systems, these trees are now more susceptible to uprooting,” Gross said.

But walk down Elm Street, and you’ll find a successful objection to removing trees.  In 2016 the town had planned to remove many of the old growth Sycamore trees.  Hundreds of Elm Street residents turned out to protest the removal.  They remain to this day!!!!  Kudos to those dedicated and concerned residents – may they serve as an inspiration to all!!!

Trees “-A poem by Joyce Kilmer

I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.
A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Click here to view the Longbrook Tennis Court Replacement Plan

Oh Baby, Baby…

New Years Traditions

Source: Love To Know, History.com

Are wondering where the Baby New Year origin begins?  Most people think of a little baby wearing only a diaper, sash and top hat upon his head smiling while bringing in the New Year. Modern times have brought more to the meaning of Baby New Year than a cute little baby”.

The Origins of Baby New Year

New Year’s represents the change of the year, in that twelve months have passed and dates back 4000 years.

Ancient Greek Baby New Year

Baby New Year origins began in 600 B.C. with the Greeks, though the early Egyptians can also be given credit for using a baby as a symbol of a new year.

The baby represents rebirth. The Greeks believed that their god of Wine, Dionysus, was reborn on New Year’s as the spirit of fertility. They would parade around with a baby in a basket to represent the rebirth of Dionysus.

Early Christian Baby New Year

Even though Christians felt this was a pagan tradition and denounced using a baby to bring in the New Year, the popularity of the symbol won, though differently than was intended. The end of the year is commemorated with a different baby as the birth of baby Jesus became a special celebration.

Modern American New Year’s Baby

In modern America, the New Year’s Baby was popularized by a series of covers for The Saturday Evening Post created by Joseph Christian Leyendecker. From 1907 to 1943 he made over 300 covers each depicting a baby and a timely cultural topic.

Meaning of Baby New Year

Baby New Year represents “in with the new, out with the old.” You may have seen cartoons showing Father Time depicted as an old man with a long gray beard. The story goes that Baby New Year will grow throughout the year into Father Time. At the end of the year, Father Time will hand over his responsibilities to the next Baby New Year.

New Year’s History: Festive Facts

What does “Auld Lang Syne” mean, and why do we sing the song at midnight on New Year’s Eve?
“Auld Lang Syne,” the title of a Scottish folk song that many English speakers sing at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve, roughly translates to “days gone by.” The poet Robert Burns is credited with transcribing, adapting and partially rewriting it in the late 18th century. Its lyrics, which rhetorically ask whether “auld acquaintance” should “be forgot,” have been interpreted as a call to remember friends and experiences from the past.

Though sung on New Year’s Eve since the mid-19th century, it became firmly cemented as a holiday standard when Guy Lombardo and the Royal Canadians played it during a radio broadcast from New York’s Roosevelt Hotel at midnight on December 31, 1929. The band went on to perform the hit every year until 1976, and loudspeakers continue to blast their rendition after the annual ball drop in Times Square.

Who were the first to make resolutions for the new year?
People have been pledging to change their ways in the new year—whether by getting in shape, quitting a bad habit or learning a skill—for an estimated 4,000 years now. The tradition is thought to have first caught on among the ancient Babylonians, who made promises in order to earn the favor of the gods and start the year off on the right foot. (They would reportedly vow to pay off debts and return borrowed farm equipment.)

When was the first New Year’s Eve ball dropped in New York’s Times Square?
An estimated 1 billion people around the world watch each year as a brightly lit ball descends down a pole atop the One Times Square building at midnight on New Year’s Eve. The world-famous celebration dates back to 1904, when the New York Times newspaper relocated to what was then known as Longacre Square and convinced the city to rename the neighborhood in its honor. At the end of the year, the publication’s owner threw a raucous party with an elaborate fireworks display.

When the city banned fireworks in 1907, an electrician devised a wood-and-iron ball that weighed 700 pounds, was illuminated with 100 light bulbs and was dropped from a flagpole at midnight on New Year’s Eve. Lowered almost every year since then, the iconic orb has undergone several upgrades over the decades and now weighs in at nearly 12,000 pounds. In more recent years, various towns and cities across America have developed their own versions of the Times Square ritual, organizing public drops of items ranging from pickles (Dillsburg, Pennsylvania) to possums (Tallapoosa, Georgia) at midnight on New Year’s Eve.

What are some traditional New Year’s foods?
At New Year’s Eve parties and celebrations around the world, revelers enjoy meals and snacks thought to bestow good luck for the coming year. In Spain and several other Spanish-speaking countries, people bolt down a dozen grapes—symbolizing their hopes for the months ahead—right before midnight.

In many parts of the world, traditional New Year’s dishes feature legumes, which are thought to resemble coins and herald future financial success; examples include lentils in Italy and black-eyed peas in the southern United States.

Because pigs represent progress and prosperity in some cultures, pork appears on the New Year’s Eve table in Cuba, Austria, Hungary, Portugal and other countries.

Ring-shaped cakes and pastries, a sign that the year has come full circle, round out the feast in the Netherlands, Mexico, Greece and elsewhere. In Sweden and Norway, meanwhile, rice pudding with an almond hidden inside is served on New Year’s Eve; it is said that whoever finds the nut can expect 12 months of good fortune.

Bond Commission Approves Funding Request for Raymark Site

State Representative Joe Gresko (D)
121st District

Dear Neighbor,

You may have heard last week that my $2.5 million bonding request for groundwater and soil remediation at the Raymark superfund site was added to the State Bond Commission’s meeting agenda. Earlier today, the Commission held its meeting to vote on the allocation of the requested funds for our community and it was approved.

As House Chair of the Environment Committee, which has cognizance over the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, I fought hard to have this funding included in the bonding committee’s agenda. This project has been a long and sometimes frustrating journey, but it is the right thing to do to protect our residents and our environment.

If you are interested in what the bonding process looks like, or just want to hear the votes, you can watch a replay of the meeting on CT-N.

As always, please feel free to reach out to me at the Capitol at 800-842-8267 or email me at Joseph.Gresko@cga.ct.gov.

5 Facts about Kwanzaa

A Cultural Holiday

Source: Wikipedia, History.com

Kwanzaa (/ˈkwɑːn.zə/) is an annual celebration of African-American culture that is held from December 26th to January 1st, culminating in a communal feast called Karamu, usually held on the 6th day.  Karamu Ya Imani (Feast of Faith) takes place on December 31st, the sixth day of the Kwanzaa period. The Karamu feast was developed in Chicago  It was created by Maulana Karenga, based on African harvest festival traditions from various parts of Africa, including West and Southeast Africa. Kwanzaa was first celebrated in 1966.

  1. Kwanzaa was created in the 1960s.

Maulana Karenga, a Black nationalist who later became a college professor, created Kwanzaa as a way of uniting and empowering the African American community in the aftermath of the deadly Watts Rebellion.

Having modeled his holiday on traditional African harvest festivals, he took the name “Kwanzaa” from the Swahili phrase, “matunda ya kwanza,” which means “first fruits.” The extra “a” was added, Karenga has said, simply to accommodate seven children at the first-ever Kwanzaa celebration in 1966, each of whom wanted to represent a letter.

  1. Many people celebrate both Kwanzaa and Christmas.

Though often thought of as an alternative to Christmas, many people actually celebrate both. “Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday, but a cultural one with an inherent spiritual quality,” Karenga writes. “Thus, Africans of all faiths can and do celebrate Kwanzaa, i.e. Muslims, Christians, Black Hebrews, Jews, Buddhists, Baha’i and Hindus, as well as those who follow the ancient traditions of Maat, Yoruba, Ashanti, Dogon, etc.” According to Karenga, non-Black people can also enjoy Kwanzaa, just as non-Mexicans commemorate Cinco de Mayo, for example.

  1. Kwanzaa centers around seven principles.

The seven principles of Kwanzaa, as determined by Karenga, are umoja (unity), kujichagulia (self-determination), ujima (collective work and responsibility), ujamaa (cooperative economics), nia (purpose), kuumba (creativity) and imani (faith). Kwanzaa also has seven symbols–mazao (crops), mkeka (mat), kinara (candleholder), muhindi (corn), kikombe cha umoja (unity cup), zawadi (gifts) and mishumaa saba (seven candles)–that are traditionally arranged on a table. Three of the seven candles are red, representing the struggle; three of the candles are green, representing the land and hope for the future; and one of the candles is black, representing people of African descent. Some families who celebrate Kwanzaa dress up or decorate their homes in those colors.

  1. Homemade and educational gifts are encouraged.

In order to avoid over-commercialization, gifts handed out to family members on the last day of Kwanzaa are often homemade. Alternatively, some participants buy books, music, art accessories or other culturally themed products, preferably from a Black-owned business.

  1. U.S. presidents habitually wish the nation a happy Kwanzaa.

Despite not observing the holiday, former president Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, issued a statement in 2011 “to all those celebrating Kwanzaa.” “We know that there are still too many Americans going through enormous challenges and trying to make ends meet,” the president said. “But we also know that in the spirit of unity, or umoja, we can overcome those challenges together.” Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush released similar statements during their time in office. The holiday also has made inroads with the U.S. Postal Service, which has issued Kwanzaa stamps since 1997.

The Feast of Faith, originally had families spent the night enjoying traditional African cuisine. Over the decades, celebrants have increasingly introduced food of the African diaspora to their feasts, such as Southern soul food and Caribbean dishes. The menu for the feast can vary depending on the family and their traditions, but no matter what, the table will likely include a few symbolic foods: the mazoa (fruits and vegetables symbolizing the bounty of the harvest) and the muhindi (ears of corn symbolizing fertility and representing each child in the family).

The main dish served at Karamu tends to be a one-pot stew, which can come from one of many traditions. Examples include everything from Ghanaian groundnut stew and Red red (African stewed black-eyed peas) to Cajun jambalaya and Creole gumbo. Meals usually include several starches as well, such as Virginia spoon breadSouth African mealie breadSouthern Hoppin’ JohnNigerian jollof riceAccras (Caribbean fritters), or Injera (Ethiopian flatbread). Other popular staples include catfish, jerk chicken, collard greens, fried plantains, fried okra, candied yams, sweet potato pie, and coconut pound cake, among several others.

 

Fun for Kids

Kickstart the New Year with Stratford Library Activities

Alphabet Parade

Stratford Library Alphabet Parade grab ‘n’ go craft kits the letter “U” will be available starting 12/30. Register online to reserve a kit on the website at stratfordlibrary.org, then choose Events. For more information about Library programs and services for children, call 203.385.4165 or visit stratfordlibrary.org/kids.

New Year’s Family Vision Boards

The Stratford Library presents a New Year’s Family Vision Board grab’n’go kit for families with children ages 7 to 12. Vision boards are collages or collections of images that represent dreams and goals, and they are a great way to begin a new year. Kits can be picked up beginning 12/27. To register for a kit, visit the website at stratfordlibrary.org, then choose Events. For more information, call the Library at 203.385.4165.

New Year’s Activities and Decorations Kit

Families with children ages 5 to 8 can register for a New Year’s Activities and Decorations Kit from the Stratford Library. Kits can be picked up beginning 12/28. To register, visit the website at stratfordlibrary.org, then choose Events. For more information about Library programs and services for children, call 203.385.4165 or visit stratfordlibrary.org/kids.

VAX Facts

The Stratford Health Department and State Department of Public Health have confirmed 5,941 cumulative COVID-19 cases in Stratford, and 1,156 probable cases as of this evening, for a total of 7,097 cases. This represents an increase of 200 confirmed cases and an increase of 54 probable cases since our last report of December 13 , 2021.

The Health Department continues to monitor these trends.
If you are due for your booster get it. If you still need to get vaccinated there are multiple opportunities throughout our region. You can go to https://www.vaccines.gov/search/ to find locations.

If you are feeling sick or have had an exposure, then get tested. Several Stratford clinics have been set up.

Stay safe Stratford. Get Your Shot!!!!

Oh Tannenbaum…….

Source: Merriam Webster, History.com

A Tannenbaum is a fir tree (die Tanne) or Christmas tree (der Weihnachtsbaum). … Roughly translated, it means, “Oh pine tree, oh pine tree, you’re a noble twig! You greet us in the winter, the dear summer time.”

So why do we sing about a fir tree? How Did Christmas Trees Start?
Long before the advent of Christianity, plants and trees that remained green all year had a special meaning for people in the winter. Just as people today decorate their homes during the festive season with pine, spruce, and fir trees, ancient peoples hung evergreen boughs over their doors and windows. In many countries it was believed that evergreens would keep away witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illness.

Did you know?
Christmas trees are grown in all 50 states including Hawaii and Alaska.

Christmas Trees From Germany
Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it. In the 16th century devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles if wood was scarce.

It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles.

Who Brought Christmas Trees to America?
Most 19th-century Americans found Christmas trees an oddity. The first record of one being on display was in the 1830s by the German settlers in Pennsylvania, although trees had been a tradition in many German homes much earlier.

The Pennsylvania German settlements had community trees as early as 1747. But, as late as the 1840s Christmas trees were seen as pagan symbols and not accepted by most Americans.

To the New England Puritans, Christmas was sacred. The pilgrims’s second governor, William Bradford, wrote that he tried hard to stamp out “pagan mockery” of the observance, penalizing any frivolity. The influential Oliver Cromwell preached against “the heathen traditions” of Christmas carols, decorated trees, and any joyful expression that desecrated “that sacred event.”
In 1659, the General Court of Massachusetts enacted a law making any observance of December 25 (other than a church service) a penal offense; people were fined for hanging decorations. That stern solemnity continued until the 19th century, when the influx of German and Irish immigrants undermined the Puritan legacy.

In 1846, the popular royals, Queen Victoria and her German Prince, Albert, were sketched in the Illustrated London News standing with their children around a Christmas tree. Unlike the previous royal family, Victoria was very popular with her subjects, and what was done at court immediately became fashionable—not only in Britain, but with fashion-conscious East Coast American Society. The Christmas tree had arrived.

By the 1890s Christmas ornaments were arriving from Germany and Christmas tree popularity was on the rise around the U.S. It was noted that Europeans used small trees about four feet in height, while Americans liked their Christmas trees to reach from floor to ceiling.

The early 20th century saw Americans decorating their trees mainly with homemade ornaments, while the German-American sect used apples, nuts, and marzipan cookies. Popcorn joined in after being dyed bright colors and interlaced with berries and nuts.

Electricity brought about Christmas lights, making it possible for Christmas trees to glow for days on end. With this, Christmas trees began to appear in town squares across the country and having a Christmas tree in the home became an American tradition.

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree
The Rockefeller Center tree in New York City dates back to the Depression era. The tallest tree displayed at Rockefeller Center arrived in 1948. It was a Norway Spruce that measured 100 feet tall and hailed from Killingworth.

The first tree at Rockefeller Center was placed in 1931. It was a small unadorned tree placed by construction workers at the center of the construction site. Two years later, another tree was placed there, this time with lights. These days, the giant Rockefeller Center tree is laden with over 25,000 Christmas lights.

Christmas Trees in Canada
German settlers migrated to Canada from the United States in the 1700s. They brought with them many of the things associated with Christmas we cherish today—Advent calendars, gingerbread houses, cookies—and Christmas trees. When Queen Victoria’s German husband, Prince Albert, put up a Christmas tree at Windsor Castle in 1848, the Christmas tree became a tradition throughout England, the United States, and Canada.

Christmas Trees in Mexico
In most Mexican homes the principal holiday adornment is el Nacimiento (Nativity scene). However, a decorated Christmas tree may be incorporated in the Nacimiento or set up elsewhere in the home. As purchase of a natural pine represents a luxury commodity to most Mexican families, the typical arbolito (little tree) is often an artificial one, a bare branch cut from a copal tree (Bursera microphylla) or some type of shrub collected from the countryside.

Christmas Trees in Great Britain
The Norway spruce is the traditional species used to decorate homes in Britain. The Norway spruce was a native species in the British Isles before the last Ice Age, and was reintroduced here before the 1500s.

Christmas Trees in Greenland
Christmas trees are imported, as no trees live this far north. They are decorated with candles and bright ornaments.

Christmas Trees in Guatemala
The Christmas tree has joined the “Nacimiento” (Nativity scene) as a popular ornament because of the large German population in Guatemala. Gifts are left under the tree on Christmas morning for the children. Parents and adults do not exchange gifts until New Year’s Day.

Christmas Trees in Brazil
Although Christmas falls during the summer in Brazil, sometimes pine trees are decorated with little pieces of cotton that represent falling snow.

Christmas Trees in Ireland
Christmas trees are bought anytime in December and decorated with colored lights, tinsel, and baubles. Some people favor the angel on top of the tree, others the star. The house is decorated with garlands, candles, holly, and ivy. Wreaths and mistletoe are hung on the door.

Christmas Trees in Sweden
Most people buy Christmas trees well before Christmas Eve, but it’s not common to take the tree inside and decorate it until just a few days before. Evergreen trees are decorated with stars, sunbursts, and snowflakes made from straw. Other decorations include colorful wooden animals and straw centerpieces.

Christmas Trees in Norway
Nowadays Norwegians often take a trip to the woods to select a Christmas tree, a trip that their grandfathers probably did not make. The Christmas tree was not introduced into Norway from Germany until the latter half of the 19th century; to the country districts it came even later. When Christmas Eve arrives, there is the decorating of the tree, usually done by the parents behind the closed doors of the living room, while the children wait with excitement outside. A Norwegian ritual known as “circling the Christmas tree” follows, where everyone joins hands to form a ring around the tree and then walk around it singing carols. Afterwards, gifts are distributed.

Christmas Trees in Ukraine
Celebrated on December 25th by Catholics and on January 7th by Orthodox Christians, Christmas is the most popular holiday in the Ukraine. During the Christmas season, which also includes New Year’s Day, people decorate fir trees and have parties.

Christmas Trees in Spain
A popular Christmas custom is Catalonia, a lucky strike game. A tree trunk is filled with goodies and children hit at the trunk trying to knock out the hazel nuts, almonds, toffee, and other treats.

Christmas Trees in Italy
In Italy, the presepio (manger or crib) represents in miniature the Holy Family in the stable and is the center of Christmas for families. Guests kneel before it and musicians sing before it. The presepio figures are usually hand-carved and very detailed in features and dress. The scene is often set out in the shape of a triangle. It provides the base of a pyramid-like structure called the ceppo. This is a wooden frame arranged to make a pyramid several feet high. Several tiers of thin shelves are supported by this frame. It is entirely decorated with colored paper, gilt pine cones, and miniature colored pennants. Small candles are fastened to the tapering sides. A star or small doll is hung at the apex of the triangular sides. The shelves above the manger scene have small gifts of fruit, candy, and presents. The ceppo is in the old Tree of Light tradition which became the Christmas tree in other c countries. Some houses even have a ceppo for each child in the family.

Christmas Trees in Germany
Many Christmas traditions practiced around the world today started in Germany.

It has long been thought that Martin Luther began the tradition of bringing a fir tree into the home. According to one legend, late one evening, Martin Luther was walking home through the woods and noticed how beautifully the stars shone through the trees. He wanted to share the beauty with his wife, so he cut down a fir tree and took it home. Once inside, he placed small, lighted candles on the branches and said that it would be a symbol of the beautiful Christmas sky. The Christmas tree was born.

Another legend says that in the early 16th century, people in Germany combined two customs that had been practiced in different countries around the globe. The Paradise tree (a fir tree decorated with apples) represented the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden.

The Christmas Light, a small, pyramid-like frame, usually decorated with glass balls, tinsel and a candle on top, was a symbol of the birth of Christ as the Light of the World. Changing the tree’s apples to tinsel balls and cookies and combining this new tree with the light placed on top, the Germans created the tree that many of us know today.

Modern Tannenbaum (Christmas trees) are traditionally decorated in secret with lights, tinsel and ornaments by parents and then lit and revealed on Christmas Eve with cookies, nuts and gifts under its branches.

Christmas Trees in South Africa
Christmas is a summer holiday in South Africa. Although Christmas trees are not common, windows are often draped with sparkling cotton wool and tinsel.

Christmas Trees in Saudi Arabia
Christian Americans, Europeans, Indians, Filipinos, and others living here have to celebrate Christmas privately in their homes. Christmas lights are generally not tolerated. Most families place their Christmas trees somewhere inconspicuous.

Christmas Trees in Philippines
Fresh pine trees are too expensive for many Filipinos, so handmade trees in an array of colors and sizes are often used. Star lanterns, or parol, appear everywhere in December. They are made from bamboo sticks, covered with brightly colored rice paper or cellophane, and usually feature a tassel on each point. There is usually one in every window, each representing the Star of Bethlehem.

Christmas Trees in China
Of the small percentage of Chinese who do celebrate Christmas, most erect artificial trees decorated with spangles and paper chains, flowers, and lanterns. Christmas trees are called “trees of light.”

Christmas Trees in Japan
For most of the Japanese who celebrate Christmas, it’s purely a secular holiday devoted to the love of their children. Christmas trees are decorated with small toys, dolls, paper ornaments, gold paper fans and lanterns, and wind chimes. Miniature candles are also put among the tree branches. One of the most popular ornaments is the origami swan. Japanese children have exchanged thousands of folded paper “birds of peace” with young people all over the world as a pledge that war must not happen again.

Christmas Tree Trivia and Facts
• Christmas trees have been sold commercially in the United States since about 1850.

• In 1979, the National Christmas Tree was not lighted except for the top ornament. This was done in honor of the American hostages in Iran.

• Between 1887-1933 a fishing schooner called the Christmas Ship would tie up at the Clark Street bridge and sell spruce trees from Michigan to Chicagoans.

• The tallest living Christmas tree is believed to be the 122-foot, 91-year-old Douglas fir in the town of Woodinville, Washington.

• The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree tradition began in 1933. Franklin Pierce, the 14th president, brought the Christmas tree tradition to the White House.

• In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge started the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony now held every year on the White House lawn.

• Since 1966, the National Christmas Tree Association has given a Christmas tree to the President and first family.

• Most Christmas trees are cut weeks before they get to a retail outlet.

• In 1912, the first community Christmas tree in the United States was erected in New York City.

• Christmas trees generally take six to eight years to mature.

• Ninety-eight percent of all Christmas trees are grown on farms.

• More than 1,000,000 acres of land have been planted with Christmas trees.

• On average, over 2,000 Christmas trees are planted per acre.

• You should never burn your Christmas tree in the fireplace. It can contribute to creosote buildup.

• Other types of trees such as cherry and hawthorns were used as Christmas trees in the past.

• Thomas Edison’s assistants came up with the idea of electric lights for Christmas trees.

• In 1963, the National Christmas Tree was not lit until December 22nd because of a national 30-day period of mourning following the assassination of President Kennedy.

• Teddy Roosevelt banned the Christmas tree from the White House for environmental reasons.

• In the first week, a tree in your home will consume as much as a quart of water per day.

• Tinsel was once banned by the government. Tinsel contained lead at one time. Now it’s made of plastic.

• The best-selling trees are Scotch Pine, Douglas Fir, Fraser Fir, Balsam Fir and White Pine.