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’Tis the season for merriment - Every part of Brooklyn is alive with yuletide fun and holiday joy

With the advent of December, there’s suddenly a new sparkle in the air.

Maybe it’s the sprinkle of frost that seems to descend, or the quickening of excitement felt by youngsters and adults alike as they make merry. Or, just maybe, the gleam that slices through chilly nights is in direct proportion to the number of holiday lights winking on private homes and shopping strips alike.

It’s almost time for Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, and children of all ages — from Bay Ridge to Canarsie, Brooklyn Heights to Sheepshead Bay -- couldn’t be happier.

All Around the Borough

The season kicks off on Saturday, November 29, with the first of 22 lightings that are part of the 14th annual Celebration of Light.

The Celebration of Light began in 1995 at Visitation Academy, and has grown over the years to include events around the borough whose purpose is to encourage harmony between various segments of the diverse Brooklyn community. “It brings everyone together in the holy season,” noted Larry Morrish, one of the organizers.

A key aspect of the celebration, over the past few years, has been the distribution of the Peace Light at each of the participating churches.

The churches participating in this year’s Celebration of Light are:

*St Gregory the Great Church, 224 Brooklyn Avenue, Saturday, November 29th, 5:30 p.m., 718-773-0100;

*Visitation Monastery, 89 Ridge Boulevard, Sunday, November 30th, 6 p.m., 718-680-9452;

*Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Ovington and Fourth Avenues, Friday, December 5th, 5:30 p.m., 718-748-9502;

*Fort Hamilton Army Base Chapel, Friday, December 5th, 5:30 p.m., 718-630-4339;

*Our Lady of Angels, 7320 Fourth Avenue, Saturday, December 6th, 5 p.m., 718-836-7200;

*Mary Queen of Heaven, 1395 East 56th Street, Saturday, December 6th, 6 p.m., 718-763-2330;

*St. Mark’s, 2609 East 19th Street, Saturday, December 6th, 5:30 p.m., 718-891-3100;

*Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church, 2530 Church Avenue, Sunday, December 7th, 5 p.m., 718-469-5900;

*Regina Pacis, 1230 65th Street, Sunday, December 7th, 7 p.m., 718-236-0909;

*Immaculate Heart of Mary, 2805 Fort Hamilton Parkway, Sunday, December 7th, 5:30 p.m. 718-871-1310;

St. Brendan’s, 1525 East 12th Street, Sunday, December 7th, 6 p.m., 718-339-2828;

*St. Cecilia’s, 84 Herbert Street, Sunday, December 7th, 5 p.m., 718-389-0010;

*Our Lady of Guadalupe, 7201 15th Avenue, Saturday, December 13th, 6:30 p.m., 718-236-8300;

*St. Athanasius, 2154 61st Street, Saturday, December 13th, 6:30 p.m., 718-236-0124;

*St. Patrick’s, 9511 Fourth Avenue, Sunday, December 14th, 4 p.m., 718-238-2600;

*St. Finbar’s, 138 Bay 20th Street, Tuesday, December 16th, 6:45 p.m., 718-236-3312;

*St. Ephrem’s, 929 Bay Ridge Parkway, Wednesday, December 17th, 8:30 p.m., 718-833-1010;

*New Utrecht Reformed Church, 18th Avenue and 84th Street, Saturday, December 20th, 3 p.m., 718-236-0678;

*St. Mary Mother of Jesus, 8401 23rd Avenue, date and time to be announced; 718-372-4000;

*St. Anselm’s, 356 82nd Street, date and time to be announced, 718-238-2900;

*St. Andrew the Apostle, 6713 Ridge Boulevard, date and time to be announced, 718-680-1010; and

*St. Catharine of Alexandria, 1053 41st Street, date and time to be announced, 718-436-5917.

Merry and Bright

On Wednesday, December 3rd, at 5:30 p.m., MetroTech will usher in the festive season with a holiday tree lighting on the MetroTech Promenade. The event, which is sponsored by Forest City Ratner, will feature performances by students from two schools, P.S. 58 and the Brooklyn Music School.

The following day, Thursday, December 4th,, there will be a tree lighting sponsored by the Sunset Park Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District.

The event, which will take place from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in front of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica, at 60th Street and Fifth Avenue, will feature entertainment by the Brooklyn Chinese American Association Children’s Choir, the St. Agatha School Chorus, the OLPH Youth Choir, Grupo Culturo Dancers and P.S. 1 teacher Ivan Perez, as well as a magic show by King Henry.

Parents will cherish free pictures of their youngsters with Santa; there will also be a free children’s gift bag. For further information, contact the BID, at 718-439-7767.

Also on December 4th, the Atlantic Avenue Local Development Corporation will host their annual tree lighting ceremony, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Belarusian Church, Atlantic Avenue and Bond Street.

The event, which is free of charge, includes refreshments provided by Atlantic Avenue eateries, as well as entertainment by students from P.S. 38 and P.S. 261. In addition, Santa Claus himself will arrive to participate in the fun.

Finally, the winners of this year’s Atlantic Avenue Holiday Windows Competition – whose theme is promoting world peace -- will be announced. For further information, call 718-875-8993, email atlanticave@atlanticave.org, or log onto www.atlanticave. org.

Northern Tradition

The fun continues on December 5th. Beginning at 7 p.m., there will be a Lucia Fest at Salem Lutheran Church, 450 67th Street. The event, which is sponsored by the Scandinavian East Coast Museum, brings to life a Scandinavian holiday tradition celebrated on December 13th to represent the triumph of light over darkness, on what was the shortest day of the year, according to the Gregorian calendar.

Traditionally, on that date, in Sweden, a young woman wearing a white gown, a red sash and a crown of candles would travel from one farm to the next, delivering the customary saffron buns that represent the sun — a potent symbol during this festival of lights -- and returning home by dawn.

The Lucia Fest — which has been celebrated at the church for most of about 70 years -- will include a Lucia pageant, refreshments, entertainment by Barneklubben Elsa Rix, caroling and raffles. Admission is $20 per person. Reservations are suggested. Call 718-748-5950 for further information or to make reservations.

The weekend is full of holiday activities. On Saturday, December 6th, St. Nicholas, and his faithful sidekick Black Piet, make their annual visit to the Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum, 5816 Clarendon Road, as part of the museum’s traditional St. Nicholas Day celebrations, which hearken back to Dutch Nieuw Amsterdam.

Among the highlights of the afternoon’s entertainment — which lasts from noon to 4 p.m. -- are the arrival of St. Nicholas and Black Piet on horseback at 2 p.m. Colonial holiday music is performed by balladeer Linda Russell, and guests will enjoy a tour of the house, as well as cider, traditional spekulaas cookies and crafts. Admission to the event is free.

In addition, on Saturday, December 6th, at 4:30 p.m., the Wyckoff House will host the first of this season’s Holiday Candlelight Tours. The tours focus on the life of a colonial family in the hours after dark has fallen, as well as on Dutch holiday traditions and décor.

Admission is $7 per person (seniors and students, $5; members admitted free). Other dates for the Candlelight Tours are December 7th, 13th, 14th and 20th. Reservations are recommended.

For further information about either St. Nicholas Day or the Holiday Candlelight Tours, call 718-629-5400, or log onto www. wyckoffassociation.org.

Also on Saturday, December 6th, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Santa will make his yearly visit to the Salt Marsh Nature Center, Avenue U and East 32nd Street, in Marine Park. Visitors can get free photos with St. Nick and other treats. For further information, call 718-421-2021.

Park Slope’s Old Stone House, on Third Street, between Fourth and Fifth Avenues, will be the site of even more holiday revelry on Saturday, December 6th. At 5 p.m., the historic building will host a tree lighting, which will be followed by a reading of A Christmas Carol by Kevin Hogan, from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Admission to the evening event, which includes refreshments and which is appropriate for children age 12 and up, is $10 per person. For further information, call 718-768-3195 or log onto www. theoldstonehouse.org.

Zoo Celebration

Brooklyn’s animals also get in on the holiday fun. Beginning on the weekend of December 6th and 7th, and repeated on the following two weekends — December 13th and 14th and December 20th and 21st — the Prospect Park Zoo will feature “Wild Holiday Party: Presents to the Animals.”

The event entails gift-wrapped treats for some of the zoo’s favorite critters, including the Hamadryas baboons and the red pandas.

Admission to the zoo — which is located at 450 Flatbush Avenue -- is $6 for adults, $2 for children three through 12, and $2.25 for seniors over 65. The zoo is open daily in winter from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Then, on Sunday, December 7th, holiday revelers will flock to Canarsie for the 5 p.m. opening of the holiday display at the Seddio house, at Flatlands Avenue and East 93rd Street.

The display, which is arguably the most elaborate in the borough, incorporates nearly 200 animated dolls and about 200,000 lights in numerous scenes ranging from Santa’s workshop to Mickey and Minnie Mouse trimming the tree. New this year will be a 10-foot-high Ferris wheel and a life-size Nativity scene.

Among the highlights of the opening night festivities — which will honor lifelong Canarsien O. James Haver -- are the opportunity to meet Santa and his elves, as well as a host of costumed characters. There will be musical performances by the chorus of Public School 115, the Holy Family choir, and “Dem Stars” steel band. The display will remain lit until January 6, 2008.

Lighting Drama

On Monday, December 8th, at 5 p.m., the towering 40-foot-high Borough Hall Christmas tree will be lit, as Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, joined by Santa Claus, throws the switch.

The evening will feature entertainment by Eriksen Translations, who will sing holiday songs in at least a dozen different languages, and holiday refreshments.

“They say the fir tree was chosen as a symbol for Christmas because it remains green throughout the year,” noted Markowitz. “Most Brooklynites and New Yorkers, I am very proud to say, are king of like that magnificent tree that lights up Brooklyn Borough Hall Plaza every Christmas. We strive to treat one another with respect and dignity the whole year through, not just during the holiday season. Brooklynites hail from nearly a hundred nations and speak more than 130 languages, and we are the global model for living together in peach and harmony.”

Also on Monday, December 8th, at 6:30 p.m., State Senator Marty Golden will host the first of three tree-lighting ceremonies in his district, at Fort Hamilton Memorial Park, 95th Street and 4th Avenue.

Golden will host a second tree-lighting ceremony on Tuesday, December 9th, at 6:30 p.m., at Lady Moody Square, Van Sicklen Street and Avenue U, and a third on Wednesday, December 10th, at 6:30 p.m. at McKinley Park, Fort Hamilton Parkway and Bay Ridge Parkway.

Attendees at these festive events can enjoy caroling, hot chocolate and visits from Santa and his elves. Those who wish can bring new, unwrapped toys to donate to Toys for Tots. For further information, call Golden’s office at 718-238-6044.

“Christmas tree lightings are a symbol of the Christmas season and this season is a time when family and friends are reminded how important they are to each other,” noted Golden.

“During the Christmas season and throughout the entire year, all members of the community should join together in the Christmas spirit and exhibit good will to serve the most needy,” he went on. “These Christmas tree lightings will serve as occasions where all can come to embrace those values together and enjoy the warmth that this holiday brings as winter comes upon us.”

Holiday Togetherness

The seasonal harmony continues on Tuesday, December 9th, as the Park Slope Women’s Shelter hosts its 12th annual tree lighting at the Park Slope Armory, 1402 Eighth Avenue. The event will kick off at 7 p.m. There will be refreshments and caroling. For further information, call 718-369-7226.

Lucia returns on Friday, December 12th, at 4 p.m., when there will be a Lucia procession, as well as cookie and craft-making activities, at the Bay Ridge library at Ridge Boulevard and 73rd Street.

The event —which features traditional krumkaker and crafts, as well as a performance by the children -- is staged by the Christ Church After School Program and sponsored by the Scandinavian East Coast Museum, and is free of charge.

Then, on Saturday, December 13th, the Friends of Kaiser Park will host their seventh annual Caroling and Tree Lighting event. The evening will begin with caroling at 6 p.m. at the Stillwell Avenue side of the subway station.

Following that, there will be a tree lighting at 7:30 p.m. in Kaiser Park, at West 28th Street, off Neptune Avenue. Finally, revelers will adjourn to the Coney Island Gospel Assembly, 2828 Neptune Avenue, for refreshments and the opportunity to meet Santa Claus. All children attending this free event will receive a gift, according to organizers.

Also on Saturday, December 13th, at 7 p.m., there will be a holiday dance celebration, dubbed “Saturday Night Live” at the Salt Marsh Nature Center in Marine Park, East 33rd Street and Avenue U. The free event will feature a performance by the Brooklyn Dance Company which will include pieces from the beloved holiday ballet, The Nutcracker. For further information, call 718-421-2021.

The following week, on Thursday, December 18th, the scene shifts to East Flatbush, where Community Board 17 will host its annual holiday event. The evening kicks off at 6 p.m. at Public School 198, 4105 Farragut Road, and continues at nearby Paerdegat Park. The event will include the singing of holiday songs, as well as the lighting of a Christmas tree, a menorah and the Kwanzaa candles. For further information, call 718-467-3536. The raindate is December 19th.

Then, on December 20th, at noon, the Prospect Park Audubon Center will host its annual Christmas Bird Count, a nationwide tradition that dates back over a century and which helps conservationists to assess the stability of various bird populations. The free event will be held at the Lullwater and boathouse in Prospect Park. For further information, call 718-287-3400, extension 102.

Hanukkah Merriment

From Sunday, December 21st through Thursday, December 25th, and again on Sunday, December 28th, and Monday, December 29th, the Jewish Children’s Museum will celebrate Hanukkah with Menorah Mania 2008.

The multi-day event will feature a wide range of activities, including a dreidel tournament, at 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on December 25th and December 28th and olive oil workshops at 1:30 p.m. on those two days as well.

In addition, throughout Menorah Mania, there will be repeated showings of two films — Follow the Lights and Maccabees — as well as two craft activities, doughnut-decorating and Jewelites, in which Hanukkah images are adorned with jewels. There will be photo ops with Judah the Maccabee as well as a Hanukkah game show in which children can participate, at 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., each day of the event. The museum’s menorah will be lit at 4:30 p.m. each day.

The Jewish Children’s Museum is open from 10 a.m. to a.m. to 6 p.m. December 21st through 25th, as well as December 28th and 29th. Admission is $10 per person, with children under two admitted free. The museum is located at 792 Eastern Parkway. For further information, log onto www. jcm.museum, or call 718-467-0600.

The scene shifts back to Borough Hall on December 22nd, when the Hanukkah Menorah will be lit there at 5:30 p.m. The menorah stands about 25 feet tall and is the largest one in downtown Brooklyn. A cherry picker is used to light it. Further details on the festivities were not available at press time.

Brooklyn Fantasy Lands

Of course, across the borough, dedicated homeowners have decorated their houses with spectacular displays intended to encapsulate the effervescent spirit of the season.

Top on the list of many light-lovers are the decorated homes of Dyker Heights, each year attracting thousands of people, who walk and drive through the neighborhood’s brightly-lit streets to feast their eyes on elaborate arrangements that bring out the child in all of us.

Cartoon characters take center stage at one house. Another is watched over by gigantic toy soldiers. And, of course, Santa is everywhere in scenes that capture the spirit of the season, set in a bejeweled fairyland. Highlights include 84th Street between 11th and 12th Avenues, though you won’t go astray if you cruise in and out of the side streets nearby in search of fantastical displays.

Nor is that all. Homes in neighborhoods from Mill Island and Marine Park to Bensonhurst and Carroll Gardens are decked out, each year, in festive finery that turn the borough into a magical place. Highlights include Mill Island’s National Drive, First Place near Henry Street in Carroll Gardens, and 24th Avenue in Bensonhurst.

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