When the holidays descend, happiness sometimes may be muted by stress over gift-giving, food preparation, and questions that at the time seem so important: Where will all the relatives sit at the table? Will the turkey come out just right? This seems like a good time, then, to pause right here and take a look at what’s really important. In this issue you’ll find stories about people and communities who are finding a way to hold on to a way of life that speaks to the best in all of us.
Helping one another is pretty high on the list, I think. Our fifth edition of Yankee‘s annual “Angels Among Us” shines a deserved light on four New Englanders whose days revolve around giving of themselves so that the lives of neighbors and strangers may be enriched. These angels follow a need wherever it leads, providing a thread that mends people and, by extension, communities. We all know people like them; all too often we take what they do for granted. Our series is one way to say “thank you.”
In Vermont, the hamlet of Westminster creates an understated gift of light and community (“The Night Before Christmas,”). If you meander off the highway onto Route 5, you’ll find house after house turning the darkness of Christmas Eve into an enchanting memory.
In Cambridge, Massachusetts, the music and energy of The Christmas Revels (“The Sounding Joy,”) has legions of followers who have found the spirit of the season and community within the graceful halls of Harvard’s Sanders Theatre. Again, the vision of one person–John Langstaff–began a tradition that endures.
Ben Hewitt is a writer and small-scale farmer whose neighbor is Melvin Churchill, a dairy farmer in Cabot, Vermont (“Holding On,”). His personal account of what it takes today for a dairy farmer to resist the pressure to fold up will show every reader why the call of the land matters, and why working hard can yield benefits beyond what’s deposited in a bank. To New Englanders like Melvin Churchill, the choice to hold on to a way of life isn’t made lightly.
These stories, and many more inside this November/December issue, reflect the strengths of this region–community, stubborn resolve, the rituals that bring us together–virtues all worth celebrating. From all of us here at Yankee, best wishes to each of you for a wonderful, memorable, and (reasonably) calm season.