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The 12 Nights of Christmas


file photo by Boyd Loving


Have you heard of The 12 Nights of Christmas? Also known as Secret Santa, I came across this concept years ago while reading “In Search of the Real Spirit of Christmas” by Dan Schaeffer. In the back was a chapter describing his family tradition modeled after the 12 days of Christmas. Beginning on December 13 and ending on Christmas Eve, the family left a treat along with a cute poem on a neighbor’s porch every evening. The whole idea was to teach kids that giving was just as fun as receiving.

Twelve nights sneaking around the neighborhood playing ding dong ditch? How fun! I especially loved the idea of helping my kids learn the joys of giving at such an impressionable age. And so that December gave birth to a new family tradition for the Fells.

Now our oldest daughter was away at college and our teenage son was busy with high school activities, so that left our two youngest as santas. As I explained what we were embarking on and why, they were thrilled with the idea of sneaking around the neighborhood for any reason. At age 10, our daughter much preferred to be an elf as she was female and Santa was, well, male. But with her 8-year-old brother as Santa, an elf’s superior, that wouldn’t do either. To keep the village peace, we became elves instead of Santas.

Now as a family of six, we were on a budget. Armed with a shopping list, my first stop was our local dollar store. Thankfully, this was our only stop—everything we needed was there. Taking home our supplies, we got to work printing the poems and preparing the bags while the kids giggled at the notion of 12 nights of mischief over Christmas vacation.

It was already December, and the first night was fast approaching. Fairly new to the neighborhood, we discussed who should be the lucky neighbor. A couple months earlier, I heard that Neighbor Tom had lost his wife to cancer. She was well loved by all who knew her, and I couldn’t imagine what the holidays must be like for Tom and their two children. To my mind, it was clear that Tom’s home could use small doses of nightly cheer. The kids quickly agreed, and the matter was settled.

On the evening of December 13, my two elves giggled nervously as we bundled up and headed out into the night. Sneaking through the quiet snow-filled streets of our neighborhood with a flashlight was as magical for the kids as it was for me; I treasured our memories in the making. Also, I had never realized just how quiet—and beautiful—the cold, deserted streets were at night. It was like another world waited for us each evening, a peaceful, enchanting winter wonderland that could only be experienced on foot. The magic was heightened when the kids giggled over my clumsiness in the dark. Note to self: Get more flashlights.


T’was the first night of Christmas

And all through your house

Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

Except suddenly one little soul did appear

It’s your Little Elf, and he brings holiday cheer!

Tonight it’s a partridge for your pear tree

And tomorrow, who knows, You must wait and see

So turn on your porch light each evening with care

And know that your gift soon will be there

But don’t try to catch him or he’ll disappear!


Upon returning home from our adventure each evening, we warmed our hands around a mug of hot cocoa, and warmed our hearts around the whim that our nightly surprises might bring cheer to Tom’s family.

The next eleven nights flew by and soon it was Christmas Eve, the 12th day when we had to reveal our identity. I suddenly became nervous. I had never actually met Tom, and worried that maybe our nightly gifts had been a bit too much for the family’s fragile emotions. But there was no backing down now; we had to finish. That afternoon we arranged a dozen homemade treats on a small holiday plate, covered it with red plastic wrap, taped the final poem to the top and—not trusting my children to walk two blocks with a plate of goodies—we drove to Tom’s house. We climbed out of the car, gathered on his front porch, and I rang the doorbell.

Twelve drummers drumming,

they play a happy beat

For this should fill your tummy,

it’s your Christmas treat!


We had such a good time,

being your friend

We’re really sorry our visit must end.

So we wish you a wonderful Christmas day

And a year free of troubles, for this we’ll pray.


When Tom opened the door, we nervously started singing:

We wish you a merry Christmas

We wish you a merry Christmas

We wish you a merry Christmas,

and a happy new year!


Well, I ended up singing that cheery first verse by myself because my elves stood glued to the porch with mouths frozen shut. Realizing I was on my own and because my children say I’m tone deaf, I quickly decided that one verse was more than enough for this poor family.

As soon as I stopped singing I realized that Tom and his two children had tears in their eyes! Oh, dear. Was my voice that bad, or was our entire mission just one big flop?

Quickly, I decided the best way to handle this was to explain that we were the Little Elves responsible for the nightly treats, and then leave the poor family alone. After all, it was Christmas Eve and here we were intruding on their fragile emotions.

But I soon discovered that I had nothing to fear at all: they were crying because of how much they loved the little gifts, and now it was coming to an end! It turns out that Tom and his children not only enjoyed the element of surprise, but the nightly anticipation was a wonderful respite from the constant sadness, and lifted their spirits. Mission accomplished!

That first year proved a wonderful experience and we continued the tradition, choosing a different neighbor each year, until tragedy struck our own family. In 2009, my 15-year-old elf, Aly, died in a car accident while coming home from a swim meet. Caught in my own fog of grief, I had no reserve left in my tank to carry on our family fun with our youngest. With a broken heart, our once beloved tradition came to an unexpected end.

In the years since losing Aly, in fits and starts our family has learned to laugh and feel joy again but I’ve never forgotten how bleak those first holidays felt.

I’ve also learned that helping others helps my own heart to heal.

Now that our grandson is 9—the perfect age to become an elf—reinstating the old family tradition will offer both giver and receiver a nightly dose of good cheer, and enrich our holidays in magical ways just as it did in years past. I already know who this year’s lucky neighbor will be, and our gift bags are assembled and ready for delivery starting December 13.

Project Little Elf was inspired by that first year with Tom and his children. Having faced loss since then, I now fully understand how the holidays can feel less than cheery, and how a little kindness can go a long way. And nobody needs it more than the bereaved facing their first holidays.

If you too would like to teach your children how to be givers of kindness and learn the joys of giving, all the instructions and printables to begin your own family tradition can be found at

Above all, the nightly trips to a neighbor’s porch is more than just a little fun. It holds the promise of magical memories for children of all ages, and gives the bereaved the priceless gift of a heart full of cheer they’ll treasure all year.

Happy holidays!

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Santa Arrives in Ridgewood

Santa Arrives in Ridgewood

photo and video courtesy of Boyd Lovings Facebook page

December 4,2016

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ,Ridgewood FD personnel from Engine Company #35, “C Shift” transported Santa Claus into the Village on top of a fire truck on Saturday morning, 12/03 and took time out for a photo op inside the Columbia Bank on South Broad Street.

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The Ridgewood Annual Christmas Tree Lighting

The Ridgewood Annual Christmas Tree Lighting
December 2,2016
the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, The Annual kick off for Ridgewood Downtown for the Holidays got started with the Christmas Tree lighting
Celebration on Friday evening.

Mayor Susan Traina Knudsen ,Deputy theMayor Mike Sedon ,Councilmen Jeffrey Voigt, Councilwomen Bernie Walsh, Councilmen Ramon M Hache were all on hand for the festivities.
The weather was cold the crowds were large and the kids all had fun.
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Pro Arte Invites You to Our Messiah Sing Thursday, December 1st

Pro Arte Chorale

November 22,2016

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, Come join the Pro Arte Chorale for a joyous sing-along of Handel’s Christmas masterpiece, conducted by Maestro Steven Fox.  The Chorale will gather for this event on Thursday December 1st at 7:30pm at the Bethlehem Lutheran Church at 155 Linwood Avenue, Ridgewood, NJ.  Bring your own score or rent one of ours.  Admission is $10 at the door, including rental score.

Handel created such compelling melodic and fluid music that it’s easy to overlook what is one of history’s great examples of “word painting.”  The baroque era in music — roughly 1600 to 1750 — saw enormous interest in this technique of depicting a word’s meaning through music. A basic example is using dissonance to set the word “pain.”  Even those who have sung “Messiah” aren’t always made fully aware of Handel’s continual crafting of music to express the words.

Steven Fox, the Music Director of The Pro Arte Chorale, is also the artistic director of Clarion Music Society in New York, and the music director for Musica Antiqua St. Petersburg in Russia.  The Pro Arte Chorale, a 60-member volunteer chorus based in Ridgewood, is committed to enriching the lives of its members and its audience by exploring many musical traditions.  All performances are held in ADA compliant venues with handicapped accessible parking, ramps and restrooms.

For more information about Pro Arte Chorale or to join the mailing list, visit or send an email to [email protected]  The Pro Arte Chorale is sponsored in part by the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a partner agency of the National Endowment of the Arts.

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Santa in the Park in Ridgewood

Sat, December 03, 2016
Time: 12:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Location: Memorial Park at Van Neste Square, E Ridgewood Ave and Oak St

Event Description

Save the Date

For details, check back at our website

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Mayor Kundsen Announces PSE&G Agrees to Postpone Central Business Work Till After the Holidays

susan village council

file photo by Boyd Loving

Dear Ridgewood Businesses,

This morning at 10 am I had the opportunity to meet with PSEG officials along with Village Engineer, Chris Rutishauser and Janet Fricke, Assistant to the Village Manager. The hour long meeting resulted in PSE&G representatives agreeing to reschedule work on North and South Broad Street to begin in January. David Hollenbeck, PSE&G regional public affairs manager, who along with other representatives from the utility agreed to implement a work-around schedule pushing the start date to on or about January 9, 2017, avoiding a critical fourth quarter impact on businesses in the area. The rescheduling resulted from a cooperative effort to resolve the issue of work previously scheduled to begin Sept. 26, in the Village’s historic business district. The meeting was cordial and professional. PSE&G officials appreciated the vulnerabilities of our small businesses, especially during the fourth-quarter holiday retail season. They responded and we’re most appreciative.
The Village Council, recognizing the serious nature of the work in upgrading utility infrastructure, is grateful to PSE&G for working collaboratively with us.As well we appreciate the patience of our businesses while we worked through the details with PSEG. We wish you all the greatest success and many, many sales during the upcoming fourth quarter.

Warm regards,

Mayor Susan Knudsen

Village of Ridgewood

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Ridgewood Downtown tradition was a success

Christmas tree Ridgewood NJ

photo by Boyd Loving

DECEMBER 11, 2015    LAST UPDATED: FRIDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2015, 12:31 AM

Tree lighting was another success

To the Editor:

We cannot thank everyone enough for coming out to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Ridgewood’s tradition — Downtown for the Holidays Tree Lighting.

The Ridgewood Chamber of Commerce would like to publicly recognize and thank everyone who generously supported and sponsored this year’s event.

Shopping and dining locally is the best way to say thank you to the Ridgewood’s business district. Thank you to all residents, families and friends who shared the 2015 tree lighting. In alphabetical order, thank you to:

Annie and Mike Hull; Art of Motion; Atlantic Stewardship Bank; B. Witching Bath Company; Bagelicious; Boiling Springs Savings Bank; Bow Tie Warner Cinema Theatre; Canines Can Do; C&C Iacono; CareOne Ridgewood Avenue; Carlo’s Bakery; Christ Church; CC Van Emburgh Funeral Home; ConnectOne Bank; Country Pancake House & Restaurant; Columbia Bank; Cup Cakes by Carousel; Daily Treat; Downes Tree Service and Staff; Duxiana;

Elf on the Shelf; Emily’s Singers; Family Chiropractors; Femmebot; Freedom Bank; From the Top Music Studio; Gold Fish Swim School; Hillmann Lighting; Huntington Learning Center; Lazarath & Williamson; Little Ivy Learning Center; Lt. Ron Gimbert; Life Opportunities Unlimited; Marge Downs; Mark Manke; Mayor and Council; Mr. & Mrs. G. Negrycz; Panico Salon & Spa; Park West Tavern & Loft; Party’s Unplugged; Patty Herman; Pearl Restaurant; Pink Bungalow; PNC Wealth Management; Porch Light Productions

Residents, Friends, Families; Richard Bassler and Family; Ridgewood Chamber of Commerce; Ridgewood CBD; Ridgewood Library; Ridgewood News; Ridgewood Party Rental; Ridgewood Women Gardner’s; Ridgewood YMCA; RHS Marching Band; RHS Orchestra; RHS Carolers; Ridgewood Boy Scouts Troup 7; Ridgewood Police/Fire/Parks/Signal/EMS/DPW; Rob Dowling; Santa Claus; Serene Therapeutics; Sullivan Associates; Taekwondo All In; The Conservatory; The Office Beer Bar & Grill; The Valley Hospital; Ulrich, Inc.; Van Dyk Healthcare; Village of Ridgewood; West Bergen Mental Healthcare; Westside Nursery School; Woman’s Club of Ridgewood

Please stop by and say “Hi” to Santa in Memorial Park at Van Neste Square on Saturday, Dec. 12 and 19 from noon to 4 p.m., weather permitting.

The Chamber of Commerce apologizes if we missed anyone, we certainly appreciate everyone’s dedication to Ridgewood.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays and best wishes to you and your families. Please shop and dine locally, Ridgewood.

Paul Vagianos


Ridgewood Chamber of Commerce

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Menorah lighting becomes new tradition in Ridgewood


Menorah lighting becomes new tradition in Ridgewood


Hanukkah, the eight-day celebration centered around a miracle, felt like exactly that to some Ridgewood residents.

On Tuesday, the first night of the Jewish holiday, members of the Ridgewood Menorah Committee handed out blue goody bags filled with glow sticks, bracelets, dreidels, and gelt while cantors from Temple Israel and Wyckoff’s Temple Beth Rishon sang traditional songs.

Propped up against a statue facing the still un-lit menorah was Hanna Landau, a 46-year village resident and Holocaust survivor.

“I’m glad I lived long enough to see it,” Landau said of the menorah lighting about to take place.

When she moved to Ridgewood in 1968, Landau said anti-Semitism was still part of the way of life.

Her family had been denied homes by realtors and children at school would call her kids hurtful names.

“It was difficult living here in the ’60s,” Landau said. “I could not believe 12 miles from the GW [George Washington Bridge] there was a town that was so restricted.”

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Readers Question Missing Lamp Post Christmas Decorations


Readers Question Missing Lamp Post Christmas Decorations 
Ridgewood NJ, Readers all agree on one thing this holiday season , they all love the Village Christmas tree  ,but many have noticed something missing from the holiday decorations in the Central Business District , the Christmas lights hung from the lamp posts throughout the down town.
Speculation has run rampant as to the whereabouts of the Christmas balls so nice hung from Village lamp posts year after year . What gives ,where are they , and why none?
Some have mentioned budget constraints , or technical difficulties , but insiders in the Village hall wont confirm .

Readers say ,”As I have posted 0 %tax increase = No Lamp posted Decoration. I really don’t know. signal usually puts them up and they can’t be that busy because they didn’t put the light on the tree this year Downs did. So I guess they are trying to scale down.  ”


Hotwire US

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Ridgewood Christmas tree honors fallen Waldwick police officer


Workers from Downes Tree Service place Ridgewood’s Christmas tree at the intersection of East Ridgewood Avenue and South Broad Street.

Ridgewood Christmas tree honors fallen Waldwick police officer


Ridgewood’s Christmas tree will be lit this Friday at 8 p.m., as tradition dictates.

Adding to the tradition this year is a particularly special, and seasonally appropriate, gesture.

The tree was taken from the Midland Park home of the uncle and aunt of Waldwick Police Officer Christopher Goodell, who was 32 years old and engaged to be married when he lost his life this past summer in a tragic car accident while he was on the job.

The tree is meant to honor the beloved police officer, ringing in the true meaning of the season.

In the same spirit, the Goodell family has been invited by the village to help light the tree on Friday night.


Downtown for the Holidays Celebration

Ridgewood Chamber of Commerce

Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration Friday, December 5 from 5:30 to 9:00PM – Santa and live entertainment