Holidays

By Fr. Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

The Christmas season is upon us. The village of Port Jefferson is decked out with lights and wreaths — there is definitely a spirit of Christmas in the air. 

The world is a crazy place. The violence and hate has become infectious, but the reason for the season has taken a hold of us once again in a number of places. People are reaching out and bridging differences. 

One such instance is Christmas Magic, an event that magically touches hearts old and young alike with the spirit of giving, sharing and serving others. Started more than 25 years ago by a young attorney who wanted his children to understand the real meaning of Christmas, his act of kindness and generosity has touched thousands of people across our county every Christmas season. 

Hundreds of caring high school students to college students, from youth programs and church communities sacrifice their time and reach out to thousands of children living in our shelters during the holiday season.

Close to 3,000 people gathered at Carnegie Hall on the second Monday in December this year for a Christmas concert. The headliners were powerful: Andy Cooney and his band, the Hibernian Festival Singers, the Irish Tenors, the New York Tenors and eight young men who have become a band of brothers supported by an extraordinary female voice that makes the H.I.M.S. and Her such an extraordinary musical talent.

This band of brothers are young men who are broken and wounded, from all over, trying to reclaim their lives while living in a long-term nontraditional treatment program for addictions. The story of these men is a story of powerful change and transformation. Their performance at Carnegie Hall brought that packed house of concertgoers to their feet. It was a night of inspiration to remember.

A few days before their performance at Carnegie Hall these gifted and talented men volunteered to sing Christmas carols at the retirement home for the Dominican Sisters at their motherhouse in Amityville. I started to visit these sisters every Advent because I’m a product of Dominican education. In my junior high school years, I was profoundly influenced by three very dynamic women of faith. This has been my simple way of saying thank you.

After serving the church in a variety of leadership roles for more than 50 years, my former eighth-grade teacher took a job at Pax Christi, an emergency men’s shelter in Port Jefferson. She began working five days a week until she was 85 years old cleaning toilets, making beds and bringing hope to countless men who thought their lives were hopeless.

Today Sr. Beata is in her mid-90s. She is still as sharp as can be but has a difficult time getting around. The sisters she lives with range in age from their mid-70s to 107 years old. 

After caroling that Saturday morning, the young men walked among these extraordinary women hugging and kissing them; the room was aglow. The sister who is 107 years old came over to me to thank me for bringing these young men. She said it was her greatest Christmas present. All her family has died and her friends as well. She has no visitors. After one of the young men hugged her she started to cry. She hadn’t been hugged in over a year and she said thank you for helping her feel alive again.

As we drove home, these men on the road to recovery and wellness were on fire — not realizing how in their brokenness with their simple carols they brought so much joy to a community of women who were such a source of hope and light for so many generations.

Christmas seems to be that time of year to remind each other of the profound goodness that lives within each of us and to be conscious that each one of us has the power to make a difference that really does count.

Merry Christmas!

Fr. Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

‘TIS THE SEASON

While admiring the Promenade of Trees at the Stony Brook Village Center, Gerard Romano of Port Jefferson Station stopped in front of the clothing store LOFT and captured this festive scene using a wide-angle lens. The 66 decorated trees will remain on display through Jan. 1.

Send your Photo of the Week to leisure@tbrnewspapers.com.

Photo by Donna Newman

St. James R.C. Church, 429 Route 25A, Setauket invites the community to experience the beauty and wonder of its traditional Neopolitan Nativity scenes, courtesy of Rev. Gerald Cestare, every day through Jan. 13 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (except Christmas Eve/Day and New Year’s Eve). 

Celebrating its 30th anniversary, this year’s display, located once again in the Parish Center, contains thousands of figures, buildings and miniatures; even if you have seen this display in the past, there is always something new! Fr. Jerry invites everyone to share in this wonderful depiction of the true gift of Christmas, a tradition handed down to him from his grandfather. Free event. Call 631-941-4141.

Holiday plants like mistletoe and holly are poisonous to your pets.

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

Dr. Matthew Kearns

Why do pets like holidays? There are many reasons.

Lots of extra attention!!!!! 

Family is home more and friends come over to celebrate. This means lots of extra attention. Most pets enjoy this but some can have some anxiety. Make sure that if your dog or cat tends to get scared with a lot of people around they have a safe haven: a separate room, kennel, etc. 

If your pet tends to get so fearful that they might snap or scratch at a guest, it might be best to find a friend to watch them or consider boarding them for a day or two. We commonly board at our clinic not only for vacations but also for a day or two during the holidays. 

If relatives are visiting, gently remind them of the danger of leaving medications out. Not just prescription medications pose a holiday hazard; over-the-counter medications are dangerous as well. A single ibuprofen or acetaminophen tablet could cause serious illness in a large dog and be potentially fatal to a small dog or cat.

Lights and decorations 

Whether you celebrate the Festival of Lights or “Oh Holy Night,” everyone loves holiday lights and decorations (including dogs and cats). Just make sure that they don’t have access to wires (risk of electrocution), tinsel (GI obstructions) and plants. Plants like mistletoe and holly can cause severe GI problems and sometimes cardiac dysfunction; so make sure they are away from curious paws and mouths. If you have a live tree, the water can become stagnant and bacteria will grow in it; so keep your dog or cat away from it.  

Gifts, gifts, gifts 

Even pets like gifts and, if your cats are like mine, the boxes gifts come in are more fun than the gifts themselves. Check these toys to make sure toys don’t have strings, ribbons or yarn that could come off and potentially be swallowed. If you like to give bones as treats (and what dog doesn’t love bones), make sure they are not turkey, chicken, pork or fish bones. These bones tend to splinter and present choking hazards, as well as perforate the stomach or bowels.

Food, glorious food!!! 

There’s lots of food around and usually on tables within reach of opportunistic dogs and cats. Be careful of leaving food around, especially chocolates. Chocolate has two chemicals: caffeine and theobromine, and both are powerful stimulants. Small amounts cause panting, hyperactivity, increased thirst and urination. Larger exposures of chocolate trigger irregular heart rhythms, seizures, coma and death.  

Chocolate is also very high in sugar and fat. Minimally, this will give your pet a tummy ache, but I have personally seen a few cases of serious gastroenteritis, pancreatitis and liver disease from ingestion of large amounts of chocolate and other candy. Any leftover food will tend to grow bacteria and mold on it if left out. Try to make an effort (even after a long night of reveling) to clean up so that you do not have to worry about your pet ingesting leftover treats.    

I hope everyone has a joyous and safe holiday season and a Happy New Year. Special thanks to Heidi Sutton and all the staff of the Arts and Lifestyle section for making my column possible and another great year. 

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.

The Three Village Historical Society hosted its annual Candlelight House Tour on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. In celebration of the 40th anniversary of this annual holiday event, the tour featured six locations, which included five residences, each individually decorated by a talented local interior designer, and a rare look inside the Setauket Grist Mill. Participants also had the option of attending an evening reception at the Old Field Club or breakfast at the Stony Brook Yacht Club,

Decked out in holiday splendor, every location welcomed an unprecedented number of visitors and was staffed by a rotation of dedicated volunteers. Though presented through a fresh vision, tours of yesteryear were acknowledged through the inclusion of certain houses that had been previously featured.

Additionally, Eva Glaser and Liz Tyler Carey, who were inaugural event chairs, returned as decorators for one of the homes, which also featured a pop-up holiday boutique consisting of unique gift items. All proceeds from those sales went to the planned restoration of the Dominic Crawford Barn.

The nearly sold out event raised a significant amount of money for the Three Village Historical Society’s Education Fund. Many people gave of their talents, time and services to create the festive fundraiser.

This beloved seasonal tradition would not exist without the generosity of the event chairs, Patty Cain and Patty Yantz, as well as the food and beverage sponsors, homeowners, Three Village Historical Society administrative staff, house chairs, decorators, volunteers, members, supporters and community at large.

All photos by Pam Botway

Robert Nasta from My Creperie prepares to leave for New York City and donate to the Homeless. Photo by Kyle Barr

It may be the season for lights, for holiday cheer and for family, but for many people across the North Shore, it’s also the time for giving to those who may not have the capability or money to participate in the holidays.

“My main hope is other people catch on, not necessarily the donating, but the dropping off, the doing,” said Robert Nasta, the co-owner of My Creperie in Wading River. “It’s one thing to think it, but it’s another thing to do it.”

Stacy Davidson holds the donation box for Holiday Magic. Photo by Kyle Barr

Below are some of the people and organizations in the area that have made it their mission to make others’ holidays a little brighter. While no one person could possibly support all at once, all those listed said they would appreciate support of any kind.

Stacy Davidson, the owner of Pattern Finders & Stacy’s Finds on East Main Street in Port Jefferson, is working with a number of businesses in the area to gather toys and clothes for the Hauppauge-based nonprofit Holiday Magic, which collects toys for homeless and underprivileged children all across Long Island.

Davidson said often these underprivileged or homeless children, beyond any other gift, only ask for a house.

“It’s very common, very common,” she said.

Davidson, along with Amazing Olive and Sea Creations near Main Street have set up a collection box for Holiday Magic, while Captain’s Lady Salon on Main Street has set up a donation box for Toys for Tots, a national program run by the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. Those who donate any new toys or clothing are also entered into a free raffle for a gift certificate applicable to all those participating stores. While Holiday Magic picks up the toys Dec. 12, participating stores said they will continue to accept gifts to be delivered directly to the toy drive.

Other places around Port Jeff have set up donation boxes, including the Visitors Center with a Toys for Tots donation box and the ice cream shop Sundaes in Port Jefferson Station, which has set up a donation box for Holiday Magic.

All across the North Shore both groups and individuals have made it their mission to help those in unfortunate circumstances, and the need never gets any smaller. Nasta spends his one day off a week giving out donated blankets, hats, gloves, socks, jackets as well as sandwiches and water to the homeless in New York City. He is accepting donations every day but Tuesday and said the clothing needs to be in decent, wearable condition and should be sent or dropped off at his business located at 2 Sound Road in Wading River.

“At the end of the day we’re all cut from the same wood,” the creperie owner said.

Kim Marino, a Miller Place resident and admin of the Facebook group North Shore (& beyond) Mamas & Daddies working as Angels, has been active since 2017 helping support families in need with food and other items, and this Christmas season she, along with Miller Place Boy Scout Troop 204 have helped close to 20 families. Marino is looking to get Christmas presents for the family of a single mother, who has two kids with special needs and lives with the family’s grandparents. Those who wish to assist Marino or donate can request to join the Facebook page or email Marino at Zakgm@optonline.net.

Miller Place resident Rhonda Klch is helping to host the ninth annual Holiday Dreams event that raises funds and accepts donations to bring presents for an average of 250 needy families a year, the majority of which live in the Town of Brookhaven. The nonprofit Equity First Foundation, which runs Holiday Dreams, is hosting its pick-up party Dec. 22 at Recipe 7 in Miller Place from 9 to 11 a.m. Klch said the event already has 400 people preregistered, but those interested can still register online at www.holidaydreamsli.com or call 631-714-4822, ext. 102, to get a full list of items needed and for the official drop off locations. 

“At the end of the day we’re all cut from the same wood,”

—Robert Nasta

Some Long Island nonprofits are in dire need of donations this holiday season. The Bellport-based nonprofit Lighthouse Mission hosts mobile food outreaches all throughout Long Island, including Wednesdays at 12 p.m. in Rocky Point in the Knights of Columbus parking lot at 683 Route 25A and midday on Thursdays at the Port Jefferson Station Commuter Parking Lot at the corner of Hallock Road and Route 112.

Chloe Willoughby, the office manager for Lighthouse Mission, said the group’s need goes up considerably at the end of the year. In November the group supplied about 9,750 people with food, but she expects that number to rise past 10,000 in December.

Lighthouse Mission is in desperate need of both toys and clothes to give to underprivileged children. The group projects the need to provide toys to 1,500 kids, but only currently have around 450. They are especially in need of new, unopened toys, and toys for teenagers, whom she said often feel left out of these sorts of drives. In terms of clothing, they would need jackets and boots, which can either be new or used. If one wishes to donate to Lighthouse Mission you can call 631- 758-7584 or visit the main location at 1543 Montauk Highway in Bellport.

An East Nothport house decked in more than 25,000 holiday lights hopes to raise funds for charity. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

Each year as it gets close to Christmas, drivers slow down just a bit on residential streets as those who are young at heart enjoy the holiday light displays. Everyone knows the address or road of that one home whose lawn is decorated with more figures and lights than can be counted.

James Tomeo, 28, has spent weeks decorating his East Northport home with more than 25,000 Christmas lights and hundreds of figures in hopes of raising money for Cohen Children’s Medical Center. On the night of Dec. 7, his home was transformed into Santa’s workshop where children would take pictures and talk to Santa and Mrs. Claus while marveling at the display.

A sign at James Tomeo’s house indicate the holiday light display is in honor of his late mother, Jacki. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“Every year the fundraiser has grown bigger and bigger,” he said. “And with that the display has continued to grow bigger and bigger.”

Tomeo said his massive holiday light display is inspired by his late mother, Jacki, who died when he was 8 years old. He recalls fondly that his mother’s favorite holiday was Christmas and remembers frequently stopping with her to admire a large light display in Deer Park near where he went for karate lessons as a child.

 

“I slowly started building up my display over time, and I wanted to have a huge display like his,” Tomeo said.

In 2015, the Elwood school district board of education trustee decided to put his light display up and host an event to raise money for the Leukemia Foundation in honor of his mom. Over the years, he’s transitioned to donating any funds raised to the Cohen Children’s Medical Center.

“A lot of people stop by each year for their kids,” Tomeo said. “So, we wanted to do something for the children.”

In order to create his holiday light display, the East Northport resident said he starts assembling his army of more than 600 lit and blow-up figurines featuring popular characters from Disney movies, Star Wars, Sesame Street, Looney Tunes and more by Halloween.

“Everyone comes on Halloween to see what I’ve started with on the roof,” he said. “It’s become a Halloween tradition.”

His neighbor Sarah Perinchief said it’s a community activity to watch the display come together each year.

A homemade light display in honor of Tomeo’s brother, a U.S. Marine, who is deploying overseas. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

“Last year, when he did it I saw it from The Best Market parking lot,” she said. “I was like, ‘Where is that house’ so I took a drive around in October, and I could see the lights.”

Among the more than 25,000 Christmas lights are a number of personal decorations that Tomeo has made throughout the years. For 2018, he custom built an American flag made up of more than 2,000 bulbs with the words “Peace on Earth” to hang above it. In front of the flag, a Santa Claus kneels over a pair of combat boots. Surrounding the American flag and Santa, are choirs of angels. The installation was designed to honor Tomeo’s brother-in-law, a U.S. Marine who will be deploying overseas for Christmas.

“It’s our Christmas present to him,” Tomeo said. “That’s our way of telling him that we wish him the best overseas and a safe return home.”

High school volunteers from Commack, Elwood and Northport school districts came dressed as elves Dec. 7 to help oversee a raffle of baskets and items donated by local business owners in an effort to help raise money for the children’s hospital. Among the prizes raffled off were a 55-inch television and spending a day in the life of New York State assemblymen Andrew Raia (R-East Northport) and Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills).

“It’s awesome,” Perinchief said. “It’s such a fun, nice family-friendly event for a good cause.”

The Vanderbilt Mansion's library is ready for the holidays

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum’s holiday centerpiece is the mansion of William and Rosamond Vanderbilt, decorated each year by local designers and garden clubs. Their creative touch brings additional charm and magic to the spectacular, 24-room, Spanish-Revival house, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

An elegant dining room table setting

Visitors can see the captivating results during guided tours now through Dec. 30 as lighted trees, ornaments, wreaths, ribbons, poinsettias, garlands, toys and elegantly wrapped faux gifts fill the rooms.

Stephanie Gress, the Vanderbilt’s director of curatorial affairs, and her staff decorated the Windsor Guest Room, Lancaster Room, Breakfast Nook and Northport Porch.

“Most of these garden clubs and designers have been decorating the mansion for more than 20 seasons,” Gress, said. “We look forward to seeing them each year, and to how they use their creative skills to bring elegant holiday charm to the house.”

Designers Mary Schlotter and Krishtia McCord put finishing touches on their botanical dress

Centerport designers Mary Schlotter and her daughter Krishtia McCord — who operate Harbor Homestead & Co. — created a spectacular botanical dress that is displayed in Rosamond Vanderbilt’s bedroom. 

“The challenge was to use natural materials for the skirt,” McCord said. “We used dried birch-branch tips and wove in strings of tiny clear lights.” 

“We wanted to give the dress some sparkle,” Schlotter added. “So, we asked friends and family to share their grandmothers’ and mothers’ clip-on earrings and brooches and added them to the skirt. We made a botanical necklace using lamb’s ear leaves and hydrangea petals and accented it with pearls.” 

They also fashioned a long flowing sash with wide, white birch bark-print ribbon and combined the same ribbon design with greenery to decorate the nearby mantelpiece. 

The mother/daughter team made its first botanical dress for the Vanderbilt two years ago. “We like to use materials that will break down and not harm the Earth. We never use floral foam because it takes many years to break down. Instead, like many floral designers, we use chicken wire and thin tape.”

The library fireplace

The two designers used antique chandelier crystals and other glass objects to decorate the fireplace mantel in Rosamond Vanderbilt’s stunning mirrored dressing room, where their original botanical dress is displayed.

Lorri Toth, who made the velvet top of Schlotter and McCord’s first botanical dress, created the dove-gray velvet top for the new dress. Toth, who worked in New York City fashion houses, now has her own design business, Couture Creations, in Huntington Village, and makes lots of wedding dresses, Schlotter said. 

This year’s mansion decorators also include the Dix Hills Garden Club (dining room), Honey Hills Garden Club (Sonja Henie Guest Room), Nathan Hale Garden Club (Organ Room and Yellow Guest Room), Asharoken Garden Club (Portuguese Sitting Room), Three Village Garden Club (William Vanderbilt’s bedroom), Harbor Homestead & Co. (Rosamond Vanderbilt’s bedroom and dressing room), Centerport Garden Club (library), Hydrangea Home of Northport (holiday floral centerpiece) and volunteers from the Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners Program of Suffolk County. Museum guide Ellen Mason contributed her family’s vintage electric train set and accompanying buildings for display around the base of the tree in the library.

The Organ Room in the mansion is ready for visitors.

Lance Reinheimer, executive director of the Vanderbilt Museum, said “We’re grateful to these generous volunteers who give their time and talent to create an atmosphere of enchanting holiday grandeur and sophisticated living.”

The Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum is located at 180 Little Neck Road in Centerport. General admission is $8 adults, $7 students and seniors and $5 for children 12 and under.  

Guided tours of the mansion are given on Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday (and Wednesday to Sunday, Dec. 26 to 30 during school vacation) at regular intervals between 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. for an additional $6. 

Special Twilight Tours will be given on Thursday and Friday, Dec. 27 and 28, from 5:30 to 8 p.m. This event is a treat for visitors, and the only time of the year the Vanderbilt family’s private living quarters can be seen at night. Hot chocolate and cookies will be served. Admission is $10 for adults, $9 for students and seniors and $5 for children 12 and under. 

For more information, call 631-854-5579 or visit www.vanderbiltmuseum.org.

All photos from Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum

by -
0 372
The Harmonic Tides. Photo from David Lance

They’re back! For this upcoming holiday season, quartets of elegantly dressed gentlemen from the Harbormen Barbershop Chorus will travel all around Suffolk County to sing holiday songs and carols at your private, corporate or family party and spice up your holiday event with seasonal mirth and music.

The Harbormen Chorus is a 501(c)3 charitable organization that donates a portion of all its proceeds to the Good Shepherd Hospice. They can be found at www.harbormen.org or on YouTube under Antiquity Quartet and on Facebook under Harmonic Tides.

To book your holiday singing, call 631-644-0129. Credit cards accepted.

The cast of ‘Frosty’. Photo courtesy of Engeman Theater

By Heidi Sutton

For too short a time, the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport will present its annual production of “Frosty” for the holidays. Directed by Richard Dolce, the interactive show, filled with song, dance and plenty of fun, is a wonderful way to introduce children to live theater.

Kevin Burns serves as narrator and welcomes the audience to Chillsville, a beautiful town way up north that is always covered with a blanket of snow. From the very beginning Burns puts the children at ease by asking them questions and inviting them to sing and clap to the first song, “Snow.” It is the quintessential way to start the story.

Burns introduces us to Jenny, a little girl who loves to play in the snow. With the help of her mother, she builds a snowman who magically comes to life once Jenny wraps a scarf around him. She decides to name him Frosty and the two become fast friends.

The cast of ‘Frosty’ Photo courtesy of Engeman Theater

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, mean old Ethel Pierpot, who wants to make Chillsville warm and snow free so she can build a new factory, invents a weather machine that starts to make everything melt, including Frosty. Will Jenny, her mom, Frosty and the audience come up with a plan to stop her or will Frosty turn into a puddle of water?

Danielle Aliotta, who played Jenny at last Saturday’s performance, alternates the role with Katie Dolce. Soft-spoken and sweet, Aliotta connects with audience from the beginning. Matthew Rafanelli returns as the gentle and kind Frosty, a role he has by now perfected. Nicole Weitzman is wonderful as Jenny’s mom and Courtney Fekete seems to be having a ball in the delicious role of Ethel Pierpot. It is Burns, however, as narrator, who draws the most giggles. His constant wardrobe changes to reflect how warm Chillsville is getting are hilarious.

A nice touch is how often the actors turn to the children in the audience for advice and they utilize the aisles often, including an exciting chase scene to catch Pierpot. During intermission, the narrator asks the audience to come up with a plan to save Frosty. When the show continues, the children share their ideas with the cast. The kids also help Jenny write a letter to her mom and even get to wish for snow at the end of the show.

The songs, including the fun “One Friend Is Better Than No Friends,” the sinister “Pierpot’s Solution” and the ever popular “Frosty the Snowman” tie the whole show together.

With the message that love “is pretty powerful stuff,” this fast-paced holiday production is the perfect way to celebrate the season.

Meet the cast in the lobby after the show for pictures and autographs. An autograph page is conveniently located at the back of the program. Running time is 90 minutes with a 15-minute intermission.

The John W. Engeman Theater, 250 Main St., Northport will present “Frosty” through Dec. 30. Children’s theater continues with “Seussical The Musical” from Jan. 26 to March 3 and Dreamworks’ “Madagascar: A Musical Adventure” from March 23 to April 28. All seats are $15 and booster seats are available. For more information or to order, call 631-261-2900 or visit www.engemantheater.com.

Social

9,357FansLike
0FollowersFollow
1,151FollowersFollow
33SubscribersSubscribe