SUMMIT, NJ - A do-it-yourself Winter Solstice celebration, with congregation members crafting evergreen garlands and affixing them on railings inside and outside the building, kicks off the holiday season at The Unitarian Church.
The public is invited and welcome to attend these annual "Hanging of the Greens" services, at 9:30 and 11:15 a.m., on December 13, along with a Christmas Eve Children’s Pageant at 4:30 p.m. December 24, and two additional Christmas Eve services at 7 and 9 p.m. Carols will be sung and candles lit at all three Christmas Eve services.
“We welcome newcomers to our holiday celebrations,” says Rev. Emilie Boggis, Minister of Congregational Life. “But we urge everyone to come early, especially on Christmas Eve, because it’s sometimes very crowded.”
Congregation member Candice Chaleff introduced the "Hanging of the Greens" service more than a decade ago as an opportunity for children and adults to work together to decorate the sanctuary with natural greens in a yearly celebration of the Winter Solstice.
During the event, part of the congregation leaves the sanctuary to assemble the garlands and work on crafts, while others remain in their seats to learn a holiday song. Then the roles switch. Near the end of the hour, members carry the long garlands outside or into the sanctuary while the congregation sings “Deck the Halls with Boughs of Holly.”
The morning can get a bit chaotic, admits Senior Interim Minister Reverend Terry Sweetser, but “everyone loves the tradition and, at the end, the air is full of the wonderful aroma of balsam and pine."
Rehearsals for the Christmas Eve pageant have begun, with children of the congregation playing the roles of shepherds, angels, and Mary and Joseph. The late afternoon candlelight service includes a retelling of the Christmas story, with carols and readings and culminates with the much-awaited entrance of Santa Claus.
The 7 and 9 p.m. services, which do not have a pageant, feature carol singing, readings, and special music by Sam Sadigursky on saxophone and flute. Music director Mitchell Vines plays the organ and piano and coordinates the music.
On December 27, Vines will lead the single Sunday service at 10 a.m., with choir members reading poetry and singing in solos, duets, and small groups.
All newcomers to the holiday services are invited to return for information sessions with the ministers and other staff on January 3 and 17 at 10:30 a.m. Regular Sunday services are held at 9:30 and 11:15 a.m.
The Unitarian Church is located at 4 Waldron Avenue, on the corner of Springfield Avenue.