Christmas lights adorn the spruce tree at the town office in 2020. Orr’s Island arborist Tim Vail strings 450 lights around the tree. (LINDA STRICKLAND PHOTO)
“All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves…” — Dylan Thomas, “Child’s Christmas in Wales”
From Cundy’s Harbor to Bailey Island, Great Island to Orr’s Island, and Harpswell Islands Road to Harpswell Neck Road, dazzling holiday lights illuminate the darkness enveloping our town this time of year. Soon, snow will cloak evergreens in gossamer and shoreline ice will sparkle like the queen’s tiaras.
Winter is special in Harpswell. There is less traffic, only the hearty stick it out through mud season, and we gather around blazing fires to read books and tell tall tales.
And then there are trees beckoning us to clothe them in twinkling lights. The nearly five-story blue spruce in front of the town office is trimmed with 450 brightly colored lights, bringing a smile to anyone traveling on Mountain Road.
Arborist Tim Vail drives his bucket truck to the town office each year after Thanksgiving — not before — and wraps commercial lights round and round and round the spruce.
“It’s something I do for the town,” Vail said. “Everyone enjoys it.”
Vail planted the tree when it was a 6-foot-tall teenager and has been illuminating its boughs for a decade, switching to brighter commercial lights last year.
“It’s just one of those things people do because it’s a nice thing to do,” Vail said.
And if you’re driving on Orr’s Island near the library, look for the enormous, sky-high angel adorning one of Vail’s own trees.
Throughout Harpswell, lights and decorations appear in windows and yards. There are blow-up Santas, reindeer and candy canes. Fresh wreaths grace doors and, of course, there’s caroling and cocoa to warm the body and the soul.
“Hanukkah in Harpswell,” an outdoor ecumenical gathering at the Community Remembrance and Healing Garden, 1825 Harpswell Islands Road, Orr’s Island, will take place at 4 p.m. on Nov. 28. Bring a candle and share a story of a personal or family-related miracle.
An outdoor Christmas celebration is set for 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 4 at Centennial Hall by the Elijah Kellogg Church on Harpswell Neck Road. The Harpswell Garden Club and the Harpswell Historical Society jointly host the public event and provide cocoa, coffee and cookies. Sue Luce, music director at Kellogg Church, leads a carol sing.
The traditional Christmas craft fair and lunch at the Cundy’s Harbor Community Hall, 837 Cundy’s Harbor Road, will take place from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., also on Dec. 4. Don’t miss the steaming hot fish chowder.
Stock up on gifts to support the Harpswell Anchor and Harpswell Heritage Land Trust at a holiday pop-up shop and book signing on Dec. 8 from 3-6 p.m. at HHLT, 153 Harpswell Neck Road. Ed Robinson, Emma Levy, Bill Snellings and Jerry Klepner will autograph books.
The Brunswick tree-lighting ceremony was scheduled for Nov. 27, but you can still get in the holiday spirit when you’re in town.
Hanukkah this year is from Nov. 28 to Dec. 6. Kwanzaa celebrations are Dec. 26 to Jan. 2. Check with area synagogues, churches and gathering places for special holiday services and events.
Connie Sage Conner is a retired editor of The Virginian-Pilot and author of “Frank Batten: The Untold Story of the Founder of the Weather Channel.” A Harpswell resident, she serves on the Harpswell News board of directors.