Don't Cut Down A Tradition
Foresight Keeps Our Christmas Tree Tradition Alive
During the past few weeks, I found myself reflecting about the value of tradition and its influence on community. Any study of tradition reveals that it contributes to our identity as an individual, family or community while instilling a sense of pride by allowing us to recall and celebrate our history through the passing generations. When a tradition is discarded, the aspects of one’s identity associated with the tradition and the history created by the tradition become difficult to accurately recall or are lost to time entirely.
My recent reflections were brought on by my concern over the threatened loss of a tradition that has been a part of our community for 60 years.
In an email dated May 22, 2020, Marbletown Town Board member Eric Stewart announced that the D&H Canal Historical Society would cut down our hamlet’s beloved Christmas Tree and unceremoniously move the Veterans’ Memorial from the Village Green to another location in town. This was a complete surprise to the HFCA. We were neither consulted with nor given the consideration of advanced notice of the announcement which becomes even more callous when one considers that the HFCA not only created the Village Green and planted the original Christmas Tree but have celebrated the holiday season each year since 1960 with a Christmas Tree lighting ceremony and party for our community at the Village Green.
It was this threatened loss of tradition that spurred the HFCA officers to research the issue quickly and diligently. What we discovered reaffirmed in us the importance of tradition to our community and humbled us because it was the selfless acts of a few in our hamlet’s history that protected and ensured the continued, communal connection created by the tradition for generations of High Fallonian’s to come.
Most everyone knows that the High Falls Village Green is located at the corner of Route 213 and Second Street. And, that the Village Green is the location of the hamlet’s Christmas Tree & Veterans’ Memorial, serves as the venue for many fun and exciting community events throughout the year, and is a meeting point for many as they embark on a stroll through our lovely hamlet. However, many of you may not know the history of the Village Green, Christmas Tree and Veterans’ Memorial.
In 1960, the Village Green was created when a culvert in a section of the old canal was covered with tons of fill. The area was landscaped and cared for by members of the HFCA who created a beautiful focal point for the hamlet. In that same year, the HFCA erected the Veterans’ Memorial on the Village Green to honor those that defended our freedoms in war.
As 1960 drew to a close, the HFCA planted the very first Christmas Tree on the Village Green and it quickly became the site of the hamlet’s annual Christmas Tree lighting; a simple holiday celebration that grew to became a much loved and anticipated tradition that continues 60 years on through the efforts of the current HFCA.
In 1997, the High Falls Fire District sold the Village Green to The High Falls Civic Association. The sale included a written, restrictive covenant [a legal promise] that runs with the property thereby making it enforceable against any subsequent purchasers: that the Village Green “…shall be used for no other purpose or use than a public park and its incidental uses consistent therewith.”.
In 2004, The High Falls Civic Association conveyed the Village Green property to the D&H Canal Historical Society. As part of that conveyance, The High Falls Civic Association and the D & H Canal Historical Society signed a written Agreement that contained several covenants. The essential parts of the two relevant covenants are that, “[te village Christmas Tree, or replacement thereof, located on the Village Green…shall be forever maintained.” and “[t]he Village Green property itself, at the corner of Second Street and State Highway 213…shall remain public property in perpetuity.”.
The covenants contained in the 1997 and 2004 conveyances of the Village Green ensure that the Village Green, Christmas Tree and Veterans’ Memorial are protected from plans such as those announced by Councilman Eric Stewart and the D&H Canal Historical Society.
Our community is indebted to the past officers of both The High Falls Fire District and The High Falls Civic Association who, in 1997 and 2004 respectively, had the vision and forethought to legally protect the Village Green and Christmas Tree in the manner in which they did. They have ensured that the longstanding, beautiful tradition that joyfully brings our community together each holiday season in the center of The Center of the Universe will continue to be enjoyed for generations to come. It is for this reason that the HFCA officers wish to dedicate the December 2020 60th Anniversary of the Christmas Tree lighting at the Village Green to the past members of The High Falls Fire District and The High Falls Civic Association who have kept the tradition alive for all of us.
Note: all documents referred to in this post are located on our website here: Resources/Future
July 2, 2020 Update: Please read the update on this issue, including a statement from the D&H Canal Historical Society, as reported in the July 2, 2020 edition of hv1: