The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

For 11 months each year, the Saugatuck Bridge sidewalk is bare and gray. The occasional open bottle will fall onto it, leaving a dry shadow of spilled soda printed on the cement, and the periodic foreign gum wrapper will wander in for a moment, only to be carried out on the next wind.

Yes, for 11 months each year, that’s the extent of any ostensible excitement on the Saugatuck Bridge sidewalk. But then December arrives.

Overnight, right after Thanksgiving, strings of white lights intertwine between the branches of leafless trees, dots glowing where buds will bloom in spring. A green wreath watches the holiday traffic from the tall, brick side of Klaff’s, welcoming visitors to the bright reds and cool greens frosting the storefronts along Main Street while a gentle snowfall starts to dust rooftops and windowsills.

And, on the Saugatuck Bridge sidewalk, a little hooded boy wrapped in wonder and a down jacket waddles along in snow boots, reaching up to hold his mother’s hand, leaving behind shallow, white footprints in the fresh snow.

“I drive downtown, see the lights, and I can’t wait for the holidays,” Teddy Gibson ’16 said. “As soon as I see those lights going up in the stores, I think of Christmas and holiday spirit.”

Haleigh Donovan ’14 and John Andrews ’14 also remember the holidays from the lights downtown, highlighting how “pretty” the lights are in the winter season. However, Brendan Willigan ’14 has a more anecdotal connection with the holiday décor.

“Every time I see those lights, I think of the one year in Vermont when we got to make our own ornaments,” Willigan said. “Every year since, I’ve put that ornament on our tree.”

Still, not all lights come from the downtown display. Claire Smith ’15 finds Christmas solace in a particular local tree.

“Every year some people hang up the lights professionally and they’re all so twinkly,” Smith said. “My mom goes out of her way to pass it on the way home and every time she sees it she absolutely freaks out.”

Nevertheless, for some, like Nick Massoud ’15 it’s not about what’s on the tree, but about the tree itself. According to Massoud, when Geiger’s Garden Center on Post Road starts putting Christmas trees out on display, even though he doesn’t purchase his from there, he knows the holiday season is here.

“It reminds me of getting a Christmas tree, which reminds me of ornaments, which reminds me of Christmas emotions and cheer,” Massoud said. “It’s a sensory wave.”

Another “sensory wave” of sorts, at least to Jessica Gross ’15, comes out of the possibly unexpected: Starbucks. Each holiday season, Starbucks changes the design of its cups and offers three holiday flavors, Pumpkin Spice, Gingerbread Latte, and—Gross’ personal favorite—Peppermint Mocha. To Gross, all Starbucks changes are reminiscent of the season.

“They taste like Christmas and that just makes me happy,” Gross said. “It’s a little piece of Christmas that I get to hold.”

Nathan Francis ’14, more partial to the Gingerbread Latte, is also reminded of the holidays when the seasonal Starbucks flavors come out.

“It almost smells nostalgic,” Francis said. “I always end up getting more Starbucks in the winter.”

For others, snow is an element characteristic of the Westport holiday season.

“I love waking up to a blanket of snow across my lawn on Christmas morning,” Griffin Thrush ’15 said. “Whenever I see snow coming down, I can only think of the holidays.”

“It’s white, fluffy, and reminds you of everything that is right with the world,” Michael Holtz ’13 agreed. “The sheer beauty reminds you of the holidays.”

However, not everything about the holidays is beautiful, at least according to Nick Ribolla ’16.

“My neighbor’s obnoxious Christmas music boom box always reminds me of the holidays,” Ribolla said. “The day after Thanksgiving, they start blasting Christmas music non-stop. I’ll probably go home today and hear ‘Deck the Halls.’”

And, while this boom box might be a little obscure, Rusty Schindler ’13 is also uniquely reminded of the holiday season.

“My uncle gave me a screwdriver for Hannukah once,” Schindler said. “Ever since, whenever I see a screwdriver I think of the holidays.”

And, with homage to the Saugatuck Bridge, Charlie Jersey ’14 has a last holiday memory.

“When I go by the library and I see the Saugatuck River, I look for the chunks of ice floating in it. Once I can see those, that’s December,” Jersey said. “That’s Christmas.”