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Christmas in Croton Falls: No Scrooges, Please

CROTON FALLS, N.Y. - It has become a tradition at the Croton Falls Community Church to devote a weekend to Victorian Christmas customs. This year the festivities begin on Saturday, with a traditional English roast beef dinner, followed by a musical performance featuring 10 adults and a dozen children singing Christmas carols. It is a joyous event, complete with real snow -- no matter what the weather.

The weekend’s festivities are “based on the English custom of having a series of carol services, a different one each night,” explained Pastor Tim Wagner. The concept of the Victorian Christmas “really turns us back to family enjoyment and celebration,” he said. “People leave with the spirit of the season.”

Charles Dickens empathized with “the under-served of his day,” said Wagner.  One of the pastor’s favorite quotations is based on Dickens’ Christmas Carol. “Whether the Christmas visions would or would not convert Scrooge, they convert us.” It is from an essay by G. K. Chesterton.

The 10:30 a.m. service on Sunday includes a “Living Nativity,” featuring children dressed in costumes and a parade of live animals who trot, waddle, hop or strut down the aisle at an undisclosed moment in the service. Then everyone, characters, parishioners, guests and animals, proceeds to the front lawn to conclude the action. “It’s a cacophony of humans and animals out there,” said Wagner.

The tradition of inviting live animals began when Pastor Wagner arrived on the scene 19 years ago. “I used to own some sheep at the time,” he said. In later years services included goats, chickens, ducks, rabbits and a burro. These days the animals come from the Wingdale Petting Zoo. (The animals will be there from 11 a.m. to noon.)

The weekend celebration wraps up at 5 p.m. on Sunday with a Victorian Christmas “Tea at the Parsonage,” followed by a repeat performance by Saturday evening’s carolers.

The Saturday and Sunday evening performances are open to the public. The Sunday morning service is also open to the public. Everyone is invited.

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