Ho Ho No?

New lights on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge are not enough for at least one “06880” reader.

“After living several years in Westport, I am still amazed at how bland, boring and non-Christmas-supporting its lack of decorations are,” he writes.

“I know they spent some cash on new lights and festive snowflakes. But there is almost no spirit in shopping here.”

Holiday lights, 2015.

He’s heard blame placed on several culprits: “90-plus-year-olds running the town. Corporate store locations not supporting Xmas decorations downtown. I’ve even heard it said that it’s a Jewish town, and therefore not celebrating.”

All of those reasons, he says, “sound like nonsense. I’m from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. I’m used to people singing on street corners, and the festive spirit being alive. I don’t understand Westport’s total lack of caring.”

The reader asks about the history behind this. “I’ve heard our wonderful downtown used to be awash with lights and Christmas spirit in the past. A place people would want to celebrate and shop. Seems like it would be a good story, if you feel anyone would care.”

Wow! That’s a lot to mull on (over hot cider).

A few thoughts come to mind:

  • Who are these “90-plus-year-olds” running Westport?
  • Is this really a “Jewish town”?
  • Why wouldn’t a place called Bethlehem be awash in Christmas spirit?

And of course:

  • Is it true?
  • Did this used to be a place filled with lights and Christmas spirit?
  • Is there really a “total lack of caring” for the holidays?

I have my own ideas. But I want to hear yours. Click “Comments” below.

Merry Christmas!

In 2015, a snowflake glistened near Oscar’s.


105 responses to “Ho Ho No?

  1. Bruce Fernie - SHS 1970

    The Westport of the 1950’s and 60’s was very, very festive. Carols sung near The Paint Bucket (Sherwood Square?), groups of inebriated Artists, creative friends and families going house to house singing and imbibing and imbibing… I remember the lights, the trees, the firemen even got involved.
    Every store on Main Street had a personality and the owners were cheerful and welcoming.
    The churches and Temples were in full swing, open and welcoming.
    Of course I was a child and it was all exciting and wonderful then.
    Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukah

  2. I certainly remember when the Town was filled with lights and the Xmas Spirit. I’m sure a lot of it was genuine and a little was for retail marketing!
    Now, look at he RSC Bridge, looks like the lighting for the Holland Tunnel. No color or design, just a string of lights. Very plain.
    With the advent of LED lights, it’s easier , safer and cheaper than ever to have cheerful displays, what happened?

  3. It was so beautiful years ago…lots of decorations. Christmas trees all lit along the river that reflected in the water at high tide and The Christmas Stroll that brought everyone to town for an evening of shopping. Sad it all went away!

    • I was going to ask anyone if they remembered the Christmas trees lit along the river downtown. I thought I might have imagined it!! Thanks for mentioning it. Christmas was very special in Westport back then and my favorite time of the year.

  4. I’ve only lived here a few years, but I love the way Westport looks at this time of year. Houses are beautfully decorated, etc. If people want to do more, I’m all for it, but I think it looks great anyway.

  5. Hilary Nordholm

    Just an observation–I was up in Fairfield last week and their main street is like a winter wonderland–it seemed like every lamppost and eave was decked with garlands and lights and it looked beautiful! Sure it would be nice to have more decoration in our town for the holidays, but in a way that would be inclusive and “festive”.

  6. Sally Kellogg

    I grew up in Westport, visited Santa at the Westport Hardware on Main Street; took my $3 to the 5 & dime and did all my Christmas shopping; back then almost all the nicest stores were owned by merchants of the Jewish faith: Greenberg’s Dept Store; Klein’s Stationery Store; The Linen Closet; Silvers of Westport to name a few. Everyone offered gift wrap. Holiday Spirit was abundant! Maybe because Main Street leases have become so expensive that only national upscale chains can afford to open shop there…but the holiday decorations are supported by the Chamber of Commerce, right?

    I remember the lighted Christmas Trees set up along the rivers edge along the Parker-Harding parking lot. No one had more Holiday spirit than Ruth Gruber who owned and ran Greenberg’s Dept Store founded by her father (or was it her grandfather). I wrapped many, many Christmas packages there during my high school years. As an adult, I always came from Fairfield to buy cards & wrap from Klein’s because they always had such a tasteful selection.

    I’m on the short side of 70 years old, have lived in Naples, FL (where Christmas lights are a glow starting the week of Thanksgiving) for almost 20 years; and I’m looking forward to a Christmas lunch next week at The Tavern on Main with my daughter-in-law and stroll outside along Main Street and leisurely do some shopping. If I’m lucky, it might snow. I’ll check out if my home town has lost its Christmas spirit.

    So hum bug that Westport is a “Jewish” town—it’s always been a festive town where everyone came together and enjoyed the Holidays. Christmas is in the heart — no matter religion, personal customs, etc. just sayin’

  7. Julie Shapiro

    Most holiday spirit and lights would be nice – including some Jewish decorations – It doesn’t have to be Christmas – I for one celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas and I just feel like “It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” There is enough s–t going on in our government – let’s be happy, enjoy, and be kind! It’s not just Merry Christmas it’s Happy Hanukkah, Merry Kwansa and most of all PEACE ON EARTH.

    • Mary Papageorge

      I was raised in Westport and I remember Main Street with many lights! My husband owned a store on Main Street and for years he did his best to have the Street festive, Santa would come down Main on an old fire truck and give out candy canes and gifts to children. There would be cookies and hot chocolate, and he made sure there were lights along the river that would reflect on river. I went over bridge last week and saw how none Holiday looking it was. I know if he were here it would look more festive. Happy Holidays! ☃️

  8. Well this is pretty much a bummer, if not offensive.

    So I’ll tell you what this Jewish Director of the Chamber of Commerce is doing for the “season.”
    1. For the 4th straight year, we are sponsoring Carolers to go from restaurant to restaurant in Saugatuck on Saturday Dec 16th from 7pm – 9pm
    2. We are helping the DMA, for the 3rd year in row, pay for the Horse and Carriage rides with Santa Downtown.
    3. Promoted and attended both tree lightings, Downtown and Saugatuck
    4. Held a Holiday mixer just last night to kick of the holidays
    5. Was one of the first people to suggest a Christmas tree should be put up on the Plaza in Saugatuck Center.
    6. Promoting any members efforts regarding the season from the Riverside of Downtown to the Nutcracker performance.

    So as we say in Yiddish, Bah Chum Bug.

    Merry Christmas folks and yeah a Happy Chanukah too…….

    • Thank you for posting your comment Matthew Mandell. I am also offended by the “I heard someone say this is a “Jewish Town”. Blaming a perceived lack of Christmas decorations (in a secular town) on the Jews only serves to dredge up centuries-old stereotypes. People of all religions come to Westport for its sense of community, openness, and warmth. I know that my (Jewish) family and many others love driving around to see Christmas decorations and all of the festivities of the season.

      • Ellen Greenberg

        Well said Ewa. And I, for one, love the lights on the bridge. It doesn’t all have to be red and green to say “Happy Holidays”.

      • I so agree! Since the 60’s Westport has been an inclusive not exclusive community — it’s what makes it unique to Fairfield County. I don’t live there anymore, so I don’t have a vote. I came from one of the “old” families who weren’t inclusive; but along with my 3 sibs, I benefited from attending the Westport school system, and we evolved. I’m sorry that all this took the direction it did in the 1st place. Deck the halls with blue & white lights along with the red, green & white! What lights represent “Incubus” — Kramer’s annual holiday on Seinfeld…

      • Seth Schachter

        Completely agree Ewa ! Calling this a ‘Jewish Town’ is dangerous and definitely invokes centuries and centuries of nasty stereotypes. Even if this comment was limited to one person who this writer mentions- ‘I’ve even heard it said that it’s a Jewish town, and therefore not celebrating.” — Sounds like a total copout at best. Kind of disappointed to see it was even included in this post.

    • Way to go Matthew!

      • As Jewish clergy living in town, I am concerned about the stereotypes and misconceptions this evokes, especially given the divisive climate in our country. Westport is most certainly not a Jewish town, although it does bear mentioning that we may feel more comfortable living here than in previous generations, when Jews were subject to the “Gentleman’s Agreement” in all our area towns, including Westport. If we are getting nostalgic for those days, then I would be deeply saddened if my non-Jewish friends and neighbors were onboard. I, however, do not believe that any of the Christmas spirit has been dampened in town since I grew up, and the Chanukah Menorahs only add to the joy of season.

  9. Charlie Haberstroh

    What does age have to do with Christmas decorations? Shouldn’t the reader reach out to the churches and the schools for Carolers?

  10. Come to Main Street this Saturday between 2 PM and 4 PM to hear the beautiful voices of the Staples Orphenian’s as they sing carols. There are no Christmas decorations or lights that exude the brightness and joy of the holidays as do these students’ voices!

  11. Adrian Little

    As someone who has lived in other countries that actually celebrate Christmas let me add another perspective and that is how much time we devote to the actual celebration of the Christmas and the end of another year.
    By the end of next week in most every Western country people are physically and emotionally on holiday. Businesses are closing up, folk have time to shop at their leisure, visit with family and yes – put up decorations and get into the holiday spirit.
    Here, because we are all so focused on making the last dollar and rushing around in our self-important lives Christmas is an inconvenience that has to be observed for one day – in Europe the 24th 25 and 26th are holidays but no, not here – let’s make people work a full day on the 24th and back to the 26th to spend or receive more money – God forbid we lose that opportunity to take the last dollar.
    Add to that the stress we are all feeling after the most uncertain, disruptive and destructive year and no wonder it is hard to get in the spirit – couple that the the very real possibility that 2018 will be even more unsettled – (until November at least) and the whole Happy New Year thing looks like a shallow sentiment also.

  12. Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

    May the new year bring peace towards women and justice to their assailants.

    • Way to go Eric! Roger Perry (Staples Class of ’70) is in the office next to me here in Naples, FL. & we applaud your thoughtful post. Fa La La La Lah!

      • Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

        Sally, tell Roger “HI”. Earlier postings revealed his relationship to the Lehn family of Olde Westport, which I hadn’t known about. What a great guy!!!! Tell him I’d love to get caught up with him. ericbuchroeder@gmail.com 513-240-0719. Big risk in letting my contact info out to the world but to reestablish direct contact with Roger well worth it. I’m off of FB, at least until the vitriol from people who don’t know me calms down. When women have secured justice; past, present and future, we can then turn to social media as another cesspool to drain. I’ve never twittered in my life. I think it should be as off-limits to public figures as improper conduct. No body ever listens to me.

        • I always listen to you, Eric! Carry on!

          • Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

            Et Vous Nancy. Gadfly is an honorable profession and an almost lost art. Why hasn’t David Royce’s name come up? Anyone remember him? He had it down to a science. Dan, is he still with us? Suggest you devote a posting to him. As a lifelong Episcopalian and loving son of Christ and Holy Trinity I lament the relative lack of Jewish culture in Westport. Especially during the holidays. Peace to all and goodwill toward women!!!!

  13. I loved it when the trees on Main Street had lights on them. I hate the new snowflakes and think the new Main Street decorations look very sterile and cold. They remind me of something you’d see in a mall in the Midwest. Sorry to say, but I think they really blew it. Downtown Westport used to be quite magical during the holidays. Now it’s just tacky and contrived.

  14. Michelle Benner

    I think it would be nice to add some more lights and greenery to the bridge and main street. I would also love for the gingerbread house decorating contest, which used to be promoted and supported by the chamer of commerce but fell by the wayside a couple of years ago, return to Westport.

  15. J. Gottschalk

    I agree with Amy Ancel that I loved when the trees on Main Street were filled with holiday lights. It made the street seem very festive. Why did that stop?

  16. Sally Campbell Palmer

    There is not one drop of color in any decorations downtown….everything is white, sterile and cold looking. Thank heaven for the Cribari bridge and trees in Saugatuck!

  17. Some traditions continue! The Westport Historical Society has trimmed the Heritage Tree in the lobby at Town Hall for the past 37 years–and will be in the lobby this morning hanging more than 100 hand-made ornaments donated by Westport artists over the decades. This year, five new ornaments will be added. Be sure to stop in at Town Hall anytime between now and the end of the year to see this unique display.

    • Ellen Greenberg

      Eve is right. There is still lots of Holiday spirit in town. The Westport Garden club just distributed over 20 decorated wreaths to town and not-for-profit organizations in town such as the Historical Society, the Gillespie Center, the Senior Center, and Parks and Rec. Sunday is the Historical Society’s Holiday House Tour, which is always festive. Perhaps some of the readers who aren’t seeing enough holiday spirit should try some holiday volunteering.

    • thank you Eve Potts!!

  18. Mary Gail Gristina

    I echo Sally Kellogg”s account (classmate of mine). Years ago downtown Westport had most businesses displaying a holiday spirit, – decorations and attitude – both inside as well as outside. Today it seems quite subdued and perfunctory. Sally, give me a call when you visit!

  19. Lindsey Blaivas

    I think our town looks beautiful, but of far more importance is what our town does not just during the holiday season but all year long. I don’t equate the holiday spirit with amount of lights hanging nor with the amount of money that goes into it, but rather with acts of giving and kindness – and Westport is pretty outstanding in that arena and every year gives more and more. I would not trade all the lights, trees, and stars in the world for that…

  20. I, too, remember when Main Street had lights twinkling in all the trees and was much more festive. I miss that.

  21. Dan where is that reader commercial?

    Sent from my iPhone

  22. The trees might be too young for lights, just a thought. The tree warden would know. Growing up here meant shopping for Christmas on Main Street, but since it has changed – not anymore. Remarkable bookshop used to be so crowded at Christmastime you could hardly move. But it was such a fun place to be no one seemed to mind.

  23. ‘Waaaaah! I want more lights!’ Geez, Louise.

    I think the decorations are perfectly fine. You want more? Great, put ’em up. I’m good with that. Less? Sure, thats fine too.

    You can always move back to Bethlehem pal.

  24. I took some photos of downtown on Christmas morning 1975 and, having just looked at those pictures, it didn’t seem as if Westport was exactly going all out doing holiday displays at that time.

    I saw no evidence of lights having been strung around the trees on Main Street up by Achorn’s, i.e., across from Oscar’s–and, if there were lights there, they did not have them turned on during the day on Christmas.

    I also saw no ornamental display of any kind on the light poles on Main Street.

    As for individual stores and establishments, the Westport Bank and Trust had a good-sized Christmas wreath right below its clock facing the main square, Sport Mart had a row of smaller wreaths at the top of its Main Street windows, and, as seen on “06880” on more than one occasion, the Corner Spirit Shop had two large wreaths practically covering their entire windows.

    But there were other stores that had no large, visible exterior displays and I didn’t notice Christmas lights of any kind on in the pictures (although I suppose the various establishments might have had them and decided to shut them off for Christmas morning).

    The one very cool annual display I remember is the train set in the window of Swezey’s Jewelers (which I unfortunately did not capture on film. But I believe it has been preserved by the Westport Historical Society).

    Finally, having lived in Westport in the 1960s, I don’t think there was anything back then that could compare to the wondrous display of lights today on the Cribari Bridge (thanks to Al’s Angels). New York City has the fabulous tree at Rockefeller Center but, in my book, the Cribari Bridge light display is every bit as magical. (And I say that as someone who does not celebrate Christmas but who enjoys seeing Christmas displays.)

    • Thank you Fred, for a reality-based check on what many are remembering, perhaps through nostalgic, holiday-tinted glasses – I don’t recall much in the way of Christmas lights on Main street itself in the 70s and 80s (not on the trees, and we didn’t have the decorative poles on Main St. back then – but I do recall more in the way of individual store decorations in some Main St. establishments, certainly including the big wreath on the hotel-square facing side of Westport B&T. Yes, it is true that the trees on Main St were decorated in more-recent times up till about 8 (?) years ago, and they looked pretty. But I don’t think it’s fair to chide the efforts of the DMA this year by comparing them to what never was; and I’m sure they have taken in the feedback that “some color would be nice”.

      By the way, there is the tree on the River near Starbucks.

      And the Christmas trees on the connector in front of the transfer station.

      The lights on the Cribiari bridge, meanwhile, work so well for a number of reasons – it’s an old, historic bridge, which makes the COLORFUL lights seem all the more appropriate and nostalgic; they’re able to achieve a tunnel of lights effect, which is magical; and they’re privately supported, which seems all the more in keeping with the holiday spirit of giving.

  25. Applying a non-secular label to decorations – or the lack thereof – is a convenient and cheap excuse for a downtown that often fails to fully capture the holiday season. In my opinion, our modestly decorated Main Street is as a Chamber of Commerce opportunity that is not being seized. Funding Christmas carolers for one night in the Saugatuck area is nice but I’d offer that the beautiful (and secular) visual of bright lights, with decorated trees and garland that one does NOT see when approaching Main Street may be an area where Chamber of Commerce funds could be spent. I’d bet foot traffic would follow. That said, wishing everyone a joyous holiday season and a happy and health new year. Merry Christmas!

  26. In New England garish displays are not popular. Westport downtown has had a great deal of thought and effort put in to making it appealing., and to me it looks very nice. Childhood memories sometimes are a litte distorted too..every go back to the house you grew up in and notice how much smaller it looks than you remember? Christmas doesn’t hold quite the same wonder once you pass childhood, but the town has more than its share of Holiday festivities for all ages.

    • I don’t know how our family of 6 (4 kids) got along with 1 full bathroom and teeny closets — the folks who bought the property must have felt the same way because 5 Roosevelt Road got scraped. (Another blog ago — did share that we liked the replacement.) I’m looking forward to be walking Main Street next week!

  27. Looks like Festivus is early this year- lots of “Airing of Grievances.”

  28. David Goldstein

    Dan – I have a question for you. Why insist (and I will quote you here) “COMMENTERS MUST FILL OUT THEIR REAL FULL NAMES, AND PROVIDE THEIR REAL EMAIL ADDRESSES” yet you allow a “06880 Reader” to comment to you privately?

    • Because it’s my blog. Sometimes people have legitimate reasons for requesting anonymity — like not wanting people to focus on them, but on the points they raise. Sometimes I allow anonymous comments too, if people give me a valid reason and tell me who they are. In addition, there is a difference between news stories and comments.

      • Thanks for your answer Dan and I see all of your points except News vs. Comments in this case. The original reader made a Comment to you. They did not report a News story.

        • Right — but the reader sent me a private email. He did not make a public comment. I chose to turn it into a news story. If I used his name, I’m sure some people would have focused on who he was (probably in the context of his comment on religion), rather than on the content of what he said. As I said, it’s my blog and my policy — and I stand by it!

          • Sharon Paulsen

            Hear Hear, Dan!

          • Hear, hear, Dan. Your “news story” has sparked a community conversation that is fascinating, and needed. Lots of wonderful memories and varying perspectives of our Town over time, a few quarrelsome but most nicely expressed. A good day for 06880. Thank you.

          • As you also have the right to tell people to “shut up”

      • Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

        Dan, you are like Outback: “No rules, just right.”

  29. I agree with everyone who heralded that readers’ ageist and anti-semitic stereotypical comments!
    Our town’s classic, white-lights, wreathed, old lamplights are perfectly in tune with the sophistication of Westport.
    I’m Jewish and have a small “festival-of-lights bush in my home for the first time. Would I love a large Menorah on the town hall green as well as the tree? Sure, but Chanukah is a small non-commercial holiday, as I believe should be Christmas. And, I think our displays of holiday spirit are just right.

    Light up your yard as you tackily and ‘spirited’ as you like.

    • I must edit my own comment better. I didn’t mean heralded, but mentioned.

      and, for the other typos, sorry! tying quickly because I had to comment on this disgraceful reader’s views.

  30. Dick Lowenstein

    Where did your 06880 reader live before he came to Westport “several years” ago?

  31. Connie Atkinson Holberg

    Wasn’t there a jewelry store on the east side of Main Street that always had a special Christmas display in their window in the 60s? Did it include a train?

    • Swezey’s. It was very cool. (On the west side of Main Street, though.)

    • Mary Cookman Schmerker Staples '58

      I am a native of Westport and my husband is a native of Allenton, Penna. which is right next door to Bethlehem, Pa. (Yes Bethlehem goes all out.)
      Westport always was and hopefully still is a very inclusive town. Westport was diverse and inclusive long before It became something to talk about.
      In my youth I remember Westport as wonderful at Christmas. Most of my Christmas memories have been mentioned. I will add these memories. When Patagonia was a bank my mother and Betty Mills made the blue spruce wreaths that Fillow Florists provided for the bank windows. My grandmother gathered the children on her street and played the piano while the practiced the Christmas Carols they were about to sing as they walked up and down her street. ( I just put out one of the books of Carols that she used to have for the children.) Over time styles and tastes change. Perhaps that is what people are observing ?

    • Robert Mitchell

      The train was preserved and may be seen today at Westport Historical Society in the cobblestone barn.

  32. Elizabeth Thibault

    It seems like everyone I meet is Catholic, so it’s odd that they focus on Judaism as the reason the lights and decorations aren’t to their personal desires. I would also add in, that decorating is expensive, in both time and money. We barely have our tree up, let alone our outdoor decorations. Look towards the corporations that operate the stores, as they’re the ones who fund their operations, as well as the DMA and Chamber. I personally think that low key decorations are tasteful and not over the top. I appreciate anyone’s efforts and know that I can only control what I do.

    I think it’s more telling that many local groups are organizing food, backpack, book, and toy drives for those communities around us that are less fortunate. THAT is much more telling of the giving and charitable sensibilities that I see in abundance in our town. I’d much rather people focus on this, than outward shows of unproductive seasonal “spirit.”

  33. Matthew, Ewa, and others who expressed similar ideas have it right. “Jewish town”? “90-plus-year-olds”? Seriously? Perhaps the person who wrote this will think about the sentiments behind our holidays rather than their commercial trappings.

  34. I mean, by FFC standards, we are a “Jewish” town, but I too always enjoy some good Christmas/holiday decorations, and Westport just isn’t cutting it. Those white light/snowflakes are so sterile and bizarre looking. Take a drive through Darien or New Canaan and see how well those towns are decorated this year with wreaths and lights. Long gone in Westport are the mom and pop shops that those towns still have (in favor our our “outdoor mall” main street), but we should at least strive to compete in holiday spirit to give our town some soul.

    • Eric William Buchroeder SHS '70

      What is this “Jewish town” all about? If Westport is a Jewish town then why not Bethlehem? “Oh little town of Tel Aviv” just doesn’t cut it as a Christmas carol.

  35. We no longer have Tazewell Thompson directing A Christmas Carol at the playhouse, but Christmas spirit remains alive and well in Westport year-round. Westport is filled with people who don’t wait for Christmas to open their hearts freely. People like Melissa and Doug, Rondi Charleston and Steve Ruchefsky, and many, many others who share their talent, energy and good fortune from January to July through December to make life better for all. Thank the heavens for these bright lights of Westport.

  36. There is big “A” antisemitism and there is little “a” antisemitism, which is just insensitive and just plain dumb. To say this is a Jewish town I am hoping is the second not the first, but it still a commentary on our society that exist today that clearly makes me, as a Jew, feel that I am being personally attacked. At least this person wears their prejudice on their sleeve.

    It reminds me of a personal story dating back to 1971, when another person, in a radio interview, suggested “those people should get back on the boat from where they came.”

    In the spring of 1971, I was part of a group of high school students in the town of Westfield NJ that organized an anti-war protest. It happened to be in front of a local synagogue hosting a high roller fund raising cocktail party for the NJ Republican party.

    Nixon was president, the Vietnam war was raging. There was some step up in the war that either included more bombing or another invasion into Laos or Cambodia. Nixon’s actions inspired fierce protests all over the country that week.

    Ours was one of many protests that Saturday night in Westfield NJ that included a larger, but less costly per plate fund raising dinner at the Westfield armory. While ours was a small protest of 20 people, vs the armory event that attracted close to a 1000 protesters, our protest was covered by CBS News Radio. The newscast covering synagogue protest infuriated the NJ Republican chairman more than the one at the armory. In an interview that aired on CBS News Radio about the synagogue protest, the Republican chair made it clear that “those people should just get back on the boat from where they came from.” That comment alone made me a lifelong Democrat.

    Now I would like to return the favor in a very self righteous manner.

    If the person who made the comment about being a Jewish town run by 90 year old’s don’t like the way Westport handles its holiday celebrations, get back in your car from where you came from.

    This is in no way being insensitive to your feelings. I am wearing my reaction on my sleeve.

    Happy holidays everyone.

  37. I agree that beautiful holiday decorations are enjoyed by all AND are good for business. I’m sure the Downtown Merchants Association is all over this post and the recommendations in the comments.
    I do however want to express how disappointed and offended I am with the 4th paragraph. The story would be just as effective and helpful without introducing an anti-semitic element. I hope that paragraph can be removed as I’m sure many others are offended as well.

    • Thanks, Avi, but I left it in for a reason. I wanted people to see/hear it, and if necessary react to it. No reason to sugarcoat it. It’s there. (And, for the record, I’m not sure if the reader who sent me these thoughts is Jewish or not.) He was passing along something he’s heard in Westport.

  38. A perfect topic for the next Staples essay contest? Crazy.

  39. Rebecca Ellsley

    Sorry but our downtown does look very sad and not festive. I would think stores would want to include all and want to make it as beautiful and festive for all to come shop and hang out. White lights and green garland go a long way. How about out lining the buildings Add some greenery around the windows add some silver and gold balls this would all help and it might cost a $100 per store. I came in the 70’s and town was more festive yes the white lights in the trees helped. I happen to be Jewish but known to have a big Christmas tree but everyone likes BEAUTIFUL. .

  40. Before this Catholic guy had a child the only reason I put up a Christmas tree and decorations was because my Jewish wife insisted on it!

  41. Take a ride up to Ridgefield if you want to see what Westport used to look like at Christmas.

    • Bruce Fernie - SHS 1970

      It’s downtown isn’t all chain stores… it retained it’s local pride.

      • David J. Loffredo

        But to be fair – most of Main Street was at a time owned by local Westport families – who over time (and mostly since probably the late 90’s) sold to the highest bidder for astronomical profits and cashed out.

        Those new owners – who paid “old Westporters” then had to recoup what are now pretty sizable investments – by cranking up the rents which drove out the “mom and pops” and gave us the urban mall we have today.

        I love to reminisce and as a kid in the 70’s remember when the street wasn’t one way – but to let the cash enriched original landlords off the hook and blame it on some new generation of townie isn’t fair, or accurate.

        BTW – Matt nice job with downtown, no longer looks like the Potterville of a few years ago with that lightning bolt running down the middle of the street.

        • Elizabeth Thibault

          So true. Cashing out isn’t a crime, but highlighting it shows that altruism and local spirit isn’t what makes the world go round.

  42. Nataiie Toraty

    I read most of the comments, and has a business owner (not Main street, but downtown area) i have spent money (a lot) and time to showcase the holiday, Jewish or not jewish, its the holidays……my store looks amazing!!!, the West Side/ West bank/Riverside joined together and made a great effort to decorate the buildings, stores restaurant etc, we are privately owned merchants creative and motivated, we have shop and stroll, late hours, every Wednesday and Saturday, just walk around get Hot Cider (with a twist or without) enjoy live music (Saturday 3-6) and get the holiday spirit…. maybe just maybe you will decide to shop 🙂

    • Jennifer Rankine

      I agree. I drove past your end of town tonight and it is very pretty. I’s too bad the chain stores on Main Street don’t follow your lead.

  43. Rabbi Danny Moss

    Hi, saying “Jewish town” sounds reductive and low-key anti-semetic. If you want to explore the complexities of a holiday celebration in an increasingly diverse Westport; or given societal pressure to universalize the solstice season, then say something like that. Don’t call it a “Jewish Town,” which sounds unintelligent, reductive, and indicative of a passive resentment. Words matter.

    Rabbi Danny Moss

  44. Main street used to have so many tall/mature trees lining the sidewalks. The tradition (as many of you know) was to string lights into all the trees which gave such a beautiful glow to town. Driving up on a cold night before Xmas was always pretty magical.

  45. For those of you that would like to revel in the past, I have a suggestion. We came revive the traditions of my Puritan forefathers and simply cancel Christmas.

  46. Rebecca Ellsley

    Even Chain stores should be festive and inclusive. If they don’t do it themselves then the landlords that own the buildings should do it to help promote Beautiful. Yes I am happy the zipline light down main street is gone and the new trees are a bit thin but we can handle more lights. I love the shopping stroll. The small shops have done some beautiful work decorating and people should let the shops know what looks good. Walk in let them know and maybe you find something. Giving a little Cheer helps us all. Happy Holidays To All!

  47. I am beyond disappointed in you and your willingness to post such a statement of anti-Semitic undertones, especially during a time when Neo-Nazism is rampant and anti-Semitism has directly impacted Westport, Weston, Wilton and Ridgefield in recent months. Shame on you for this carelessness and offensive post.

    • Michelle Benner

      I hear what you’re saying, but we must support free speech in our news reporting. In this case, “don’t kill the messenger” but instead, thank the messenger (thank you!) for freely sharing ideas and info that can help our community have productive discussions which promote awareness. Hiding from troubling thoughts or actions does no one any good.

  48. Michelle Benner

    Anyhoo, I was downtown yesterday for some christmas shopping and I must say I agree that Westport could do more to dial up the festive feeling on main street. Church Lane and Elm street have wrapped their lamp posts with festive greenery and have hung wreaths on top. Why not on main street? The snowflakes along main are a thin approach at best. I think it would look so nice to wrap the main street lamp posts with greenery, wreaths and gold lights. And some more greenery and gold lights on the bridge. And put more pressure on the stores lining main street to add to the decorations with their store fronts. A simple window display and potted greenery like vineyard vines has done is nice. But you know how saks and bergdorff attract visitors far and wide to look at their window displays on 5th ave? Wouldn’t it be fun if we could do something like that in Westport? Maybe set up a friendly competition between stores? Maybe the chamber of commerce could sponsor this and offer a prize to the employees of the winning store, the one with the best window display / holiday decorations. The prize could be a free holiday lunch or dinner together at, say, Tavern on Main. 🙂

  49. Thanks Dan for opening up this conversation. As you noted in an earlier post, we at the WDMA are currently putting together a budget for improving our holiday decorations for next year. Unfortunately, due to budget constraints, we were unable to do so this year, and our president and board have kindly donated the significant cost for lighting the bridge. The bridge lighting was a big ask from our merchants, and we hope Westport will enjoy a little extra holiday light as well. Alas, unless you caught the flashing lights the other night as I was trying to adjust a few of the strands, the lights on the bridge will likely remain white.
    We will certainly take into consideration many of the comments from above when thinking through our decor options. We hope to find a solution that can be appreciated by the many different cultures and religions represented and celebrated in our community, and in greater Fairfield County.
    Additionally, we are in fact hosting a window contest this year that was mainly promoted within our merchant community to encourage holiday decor throughout downtown. Next week our judge will view all of the businesses that raised their hand, and we will post the contenders on Facebook and our website, as well as the winners the week of the 18th. We have discussed opening up the competition to the public next year (this was our trial run to see how many stores would participate), and love the idea of the winner receiving a G.C to Tavern on Main, one of our active merchant members.
    On December 16th you will find the beloved horse and carriage rides (thank you Matthew for mentioning!) at Bedford Square Turning Circle, with a festive holiday mini-market, Santa, carolling by the Christ and Holy Trinity Choralists and of course, the Nutcracker Festival. Connecticut Theater Dance has done a wonderful job putting together a night (the 16th gala event) and a day of tea parties, ballet performances, Santa, a kids scavenger hunt in our downtown businesses, and a vendor fair inside Branson Hall. Nutcrackerfestival.com.
    All that said, we do hear the voices in our community, both our merchants and residents, and we hope that we can provide some additional holiday cheer in the future. It does also come down to the stores doing their part, and it is important to understand that with online shopping, people will not be inclined to get off their sofa and devices to shop and stroll if they don’t have a very good reason to do so. If your space exudes holiday spirit, and great customer service like many of our long-standing merchants (The Brownstone, Dovecote and Tavern on Main to name a few), people will be drawn to it.

  50. Colleen great job on the bridge! A good blog here Dan. As a local merchant and longtime resident I have noticed the changes like many of you to our downtown. The DMA, Chamber and property owners are truly trying to make downtown attractive and a fun place to shop. Biggest problem I see and live is our buying habits have changed. We survived the chains for a long time. They are nothing new to our downtown. The question is, what does downtown Westport offer as a consumer I can’t get anywhere else? What “experience” or wow do I get by going to downtown Westport? We simply don’t have that “wow” factor right now…We need to find that elixir that will make it a place we want to be, rather then a place we may have to be…We are blessed to have a town that consists of so many ethnic and religious back grounds, which by the way is nothing new…NO Y, NO MOVIE THEATRES, LACK OF KID FRIENDLY ACTIVITIES and EATERIES, to name a few have helped dwindle pedestrian traffic as well…Hopefully the cycle will turn and the downtown experience will comeback. We who had it embraced it, supported it, and will always cherish it as part of our Westport growing up.

    • Sharon Paulsen

      Agree with your sentiment, Izzo, and in particular, this:

      “The question is, what does downtown Westport offer as a consumer I can’t get anywhere else? What “experience” or wow do I get by going to downtown Westport? We simply don’t have that “wow” factor right now”.


      On a side note, I might add this: the recent use of LED lighting tech causes a visual and emotional disturbance (IMO).

      I personally get headaches when just glancing at a display using this type of lighting.

      I’m all for green technology, etc.., but I’ve read many pieces that discuss the detrimental effects of such lighting.

      It may, if nothing else, be part of the central complaints around the “sterile” mood invoked, when these lights are put in place of some of the “traditional” style.

      Just my angle on it, in general.

  51. This entire post reminds me of “Elf”.
    Westport needs a better storyboard.

  52. Rhoda Emmanouil

    I was at Tavern on Main this past week, and it was beautifully decorated! You could feel the holiday spirit as soon as you walked in; the taproom was declared with garland and candles, the fireplace was going, and they had decorated a festive Christmas tree. It definitely made you feel like the holidays are here! I would recommend stopping in there for a little holiday atmosphere!

  53. Rebecca Weitzner

    If I’m not mistaken Dan Woog,aren’t you Jewish?