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  • Stephen D'Agostino

Christmas Eve Service and Carols at the Old Stone Church

It’s hard to believe that December is two-thirds over. The closer we get to the end of the year, the faster the time goes by. Are you ready for the holidays? I think I am.

I have structured this week to give me time to do as much baking as I can. Making Christmas cookies is a tradition for me that started in 1978 when I was just barely 13. My mother, who was an exceptional cook, had no flair, skill, or desire when it came to baking. She cooked elaborate Sicilian-inspired Christmas Eve dinners. She did not make dessert. Granted, there was hardly ever room for something sweet after my family and I ate our way through seven fishes.

Still, I thought a festive dessert was lacking. So I volunteered to make something. I had visions of sugar cookies dancing in my head. I could see myself rolling out the dough and using cookie cutters to create festive shapes. Then I would sprinkle them with red and green sugars. My mother had a different idea, and she bought me cookie trays that had cavities in the shapes of candy canes and gingerbread men and trees. And so began what is now my forty-second year of baking Christmas cookies.

Some years, when I was traveling for Christmas, I borrowed a kitchen and made the most of my time while my friends were at work. Other years, I made them with my niece. One year while living in a Boston apartment that had an oven only slightly larger than an EZ Bake, I had to pare my production down to just a couple of dozen. One thing has been consistent throughout all these years, though. I still make sugar cookies. Now, they are big cut-out shapes covered with royal icing. They take time, but they are one of my Christmas traditions. What is your favorite holiday tradition?

The Old Stone Church in South Reading (in warmer months) will be the site of the Christmas Eve Services and Carols.

One thing that I wish was a tradition for me, but has not come to pass, is attending Christmas Eve services at Old Stone Church, my favorite building in Reading (as I have noted dozens of times). Bill and I never seem to be available on December 24. If you are interested in attending, the Christmas Eve Candlelight Services and Carols start at 5pm. Reverend Christian Huebner will lead the service, and the Bowen family will provide the music.

Looking forward to January, here’s something to put on your calendar. The Winter Concert Series is happening again this year. It kicks off on Saturday, January 11, at Reading Town Hall. Doors open at 6:30pm, and the show starts at 7pm. Like last year, Niles Franc is spearheading this effort. In fact, his band, the Old Boys, will be kicking off the series.

The Old Boys are a quintet featuring siblings Kevin Wright (slide guitar), Julia Wright (fiddle), and Eric Wright (cello), Niles (stand-up bass), and Justin Park (mandolin and guitar). Eric is a Juno-award (the Canadian equivalent to the Grammys) winner for his work with the Fretless in 2017 for Instrumental Album of the Year.

Like last year, there will be four shows, one per month through the coldest, darkest, snowiest, muddiest time of the year. The other shows feature the bluegrass group Turnip Truck (February 8), and two Reading-based groups, The Blue Grasoles (March 14), and Adverse Conditions (April 4).

Like last year, these concerts will benefit four local organizations. This year, the lineup includes the Reading-West Windsor Food Shelf, the Reading Green Spaces Committee, the Ottauquechee Health Foundation, and the Reading Recreation Commission, sponsors of the series. Last year, with your help, the Recreation Commission was able to donate $400 to each of these organizations. I hope that we can do much better than that this year.

The cost of admission is $10 for adults and free for children 15 and under. For that, you get to hear great music. You also get to have dinner. Foods such as mac and cheese, sandwiches, salads, and more will be provided by the beneficiaries. We also ask that you bring non-perishable food items, which we will donate to the Reading-West Windsor Food Shelf immediately.

If you haven’t yet, like the Reading Recreation Commission on Facebook ( You’ll find more information on the concerts there as each one gets closer. We look forward to seeing you there.

And though the third week of December brings December 21, the start of winter, here is something worth noting. As of yesterday, December 18, the sun is setting a little bit later every day!

Happy birthday to Bob Allen (December 20) and Rhonda Wilkins-Hickey (December 23).

And Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas to all! I hope this season is full of joy, good family, friends, and food, and happiness!

That’s the news from Reading! See you next week!

This column originally appeared in The Vermont Standard on December 19, 2019.

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