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Brooklyn’s all decked out for the holidays

As it does every year, the holiday season starts slowly.

First, night falls earlier. Then, the increasing crispness in the air sends leaves fluttering to the ground in great heaps. Finally, the decorations start to come out, first in stores, then on the borough’s shopping strips, then on the façades of its homes.

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.

Let There Be Light

The season kicks off on Tuesday, December 1st, with the first of 26 lightings that are part of the 15th 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.

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

*Good Shepherd Church, 1950 Batchelder Street, Tuesday, December 1st, 8 p.m., 718-998-2800;

*Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Ovington and Fourth Avenues, Friday, December 4th, 10 a.m., 718-748-9502;

*Mary Queen of Heaven, 1395 East 56th Street, Saturday, December 5th, 6 p.m., 718-763-2330;

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

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

*St. Brendan’s, 1525 East 12th Street, Sunday, December 6th, 4 p.m., 718-339-2828;

*Immaculate Heart of Mary, 2805 Fort Hamilton Parkway, Sunday, December 6th, 4 p.m. 718-871-1310;

*Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church, 2530 Church Avenue, Sunday, December 6th, 5 p.m., 718-469-5900;

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

*Our Lady of Guadalupe, 7201 15th Avenue, Monday, December 7th, 8 p.m., 718-236-8300;

*Fort Hamilton Army Base Chapel, Saturday, December 12th, 5:30 p.m., 718-630-4339;

*St. Anselm’s, 356 82nd Street, Saturday, December 12th, 6 p.m., 718-238-2900;

*St. Finbar’s, 138 Bay 20th Street, Saturday, December 12th, 6:45 p.m., 718-236-3312;

*St. Andrew the Apostle, 6713 Ridge Boulevard, Sunday, December 13th, 3 p.m., 718-680-1010;

*St. Athanasius, 2154 61st Street, Sunday, December 13th, 5 p.m., 718-236-0124;

*Regina Pacis, 1230 65th Street, Sunday, December 13th, 8 p.m., 718-236-0909;

*St. Ephrem’s, 929 Bay Ridge Parkway, Wednesday, December 16th, 8 p.m., 718-833-1010;

*St. Bernadette’s, 8201 13th Avenue, Wednesday, December 16th, 8:30 p.m., 718-837-3400;

*New Utrecht Reformed Church, 18th Avenue and 84th Street, Saturday, December 19th, 3 p.m., 718-236-0678;

*St. Cecilia’s, 84 Herbert Street, Saturday, December 19th, 5:45 p.m., 718-389-0010;

*St. Patrick’s, 9511 Fourth Avenue, Sunday, December 20th, 6 p.m., 718-238-2600;

*Holy Cross Greek Orthodox Church, 8401 Ridge Boulevard, Sunday, December 20th, 12 p.m., 718-836-3510;

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

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

*St Gregory the Great Church, 224 Brooklyn Avenue, date and time to be announced, 718-773-0100; and,

*Salam Arabic Lutheran Church, 345 Ovington Avenue, date and time to be announced, 718-748-4024.

Festivities and Fun

Also on Tuesday, December 1st, beginning at 4:15 p.m., MetroTech will usher in the festive season with a holiday tree lighting at MetroTech Commons, in front of 2 MetroTech. The event, which is sponsored by Forest City Ratner, will feature performances by Joey Morant and Catfish Stew, Brooklyn Friends School Sixth Grade Chorus and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, as well as a visit from Santa.

In early evening, the scene shifts to Bay Ridge, where the Shore Road Garden Council will host its annual tree lighting ceremony at Shore Road and 90th Street, beginning at 7 p.m. Attendees can enjoy refreshments as they listen to a performance by the Xaverian High School Choir, and as children get a chance to visit with Santa.

Then, on Thursday, December 3rd, there will be a tree lighting sponsored by the Sunset Park Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District.

The event, which will take place in front of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Basilica, at 60th Street and Fifth Avenue, begins at 3 p.m., with visits with Santa, who will give out goody bags to the children and pose for photos with them (parents should bring their own cameras).

Then, at 4 p.m., the entertainment will start. Among the highlights will be performances by the Brooklyn Chinese American Association Children’s Choir, the St. Agatha School Chorus, the OLPH Children’s Choir, Grupo Culturo Sunset Park dancers, and first and second graders from P.S. 506, as well as a magic show by King Henry at 5 p.m.

For further information, contact the BID, at 718-439-7767.

Also on December 3rd, 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, features 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 focus is green windows -- will be announced. For further information, call 718-875-8993, email atlanticave@atlanticave.org, or log onto www.atlanticave.org.

Out of the North

The fun continues on December 4th. 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 ($10 for children 12 and under). Reservations are suggested. Call 718-748-5950 for further information or to make reservations.

And, for those who can’t get enough of Lucia, she will return later in the holiday season, on a date that is yet to be announced, at the Bay Ridge library at Ridge Boulevard and73rd Street, where there will be a traditional procession, as well as cookie and craft-making activities.

The event –which will feature 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.

On Friday, December 4th, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday, December 5th, from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., CERT1NYC, State Senator Marty Golden and the Southwest Brooklyn Parks Task Force will host a Winter Wonderland at Adelphi Academy, 8515 Ridge Boulevard.

On Friday, said organizer Chip Cafiero, there will be a tree lighting, music and costumed characters, as well as Santa’s workshop inside the school. On Saturday, there will be refreshments and Christmas caroling, and more costumed characters. On both days, there will be toys and candy canes for the children, Cafiero went on, adding that CERT will also be giving away winter preparedness kits.

Dutch Treats

The weekend is full of holiday activities. On Saturday, December 5th, 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. Colonial holiday music will be performed, and guests will enjoy holiday treats and crafts. Admission to the event is free.

In addition, on Saturday, December 5th, 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.

Other dates for the adult-oriented Candlelight Tours, which are not appropriate for children under the age of 15, are December 6th, 12th, 13th, and 19th. Reservations are recommended.

Besides the adult tours, this year there are also candlelight tours geared to children between the ages of eight and 15. They will be held on Friday, December 11th, and Friday, December 18th, beginning at 4:30 p.m. Adults are allowed on these tours only if they are accompanying children.

Admission to all tours is $7 per person (seniors and students, $5; members admitted free).

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

Merriment at Brooklyn’s Heart

Park Slope’s Old Stone House, on Third Street, between Fourth and Fifth Avenues, will be the site of more holiday revelry on Saturday, December 5th, at 5 p.m., when there will be a tree lighting organized by the Park Slope Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District.

For further information, call 718-768-3195 or log onto www. theoldstonehouse.org.

Brooklyn’s animals also get in on the holiday fun. Beginning on the weekend of December 5th and 6th, and repeated on the following three weekends – December 12th and 13th, December 19th and 20th, and December 26th and 27th – 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 $7 for adults, $3 for children three through 12, and $4 for seniors over 65. Children younger than three are admitted free of charge. The zoo is open daily in winter from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

All Eyes on Canarsie

Then, on Sunday, December 6th, 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, from a 10-foot-high Ferris wheel to a life-size Nativity scene.

Among the highlights of the opening night festivities – which will honor lifelong Canarsien Paul Pfundstein, who died earlier this year -- 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 chorus of the Solid Rock Baptist Church, and Pan Fusion steel band. The display will remain lit until January 6, 2008.

Borough Hall Beauty

On Tuesday, 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 and holiday refreshments.

“I know I speak for Brooklynites of all faiths when I say it’s impossible not to be moved by the stunning beauty of a fully-lit Christmas tree and its message of peace—especially when it stands tall above the greatest city in the world -- Brooklyn, USA,” noted Markowitz. “Living in Brooklyn is truly a gift, and when we light the tree at Borough Hall, it will be our gift to Brooklyn and New York City.”

Also on Tuesday, December 8th, the Park Slope Women’s Shelter will host its 13th 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.

Coney Island Celebration

Then, on Saturday, December 12th, the Friends of Kaiser Park will host their eighth 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 33rd Street Finally, revelers will adjourn to the Coney Island Gospel Assembly, 2828 Neptune Avenue, for refreshments, a sing-along with Santa’s elves, raffles for prizes, and the opportunity to meet Santa Claus.

For further information, log onto www.friendsofkaiserpark.com.

Also on Saturday, December 12th, from 2 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.,, Santa will be paying a visit to Flatbush Avenue, courtesy of the North Flatbush Avenue Business Improvement District.

The “right jolly old elf” will be riding up and down the avenue, between Atlantic Avenue and Plaza Street, in an elf-driven rickshaw handing out candy canes to children and wrapping paper to grown-ups.  He will also be posing for photos with youngsters -- with elves behind the camera -- at certain locations and times over the course of the day. Elves will also be handing out BID merchant discount booklets to shoppers on the strip.

Finally, the BID and Kings Pharmacy will be sponsoring a blood drive, with the New York Blood Center Bloodmobile parked outside the pharmacy, at 324 Flatbush Avenue. Donors will receive goodie bags and free tee shirts.

For further information, contact the BID at 718-783-1685 or by email to info@nfbid.com.

On Monday, December 14th, it’s back to Borough Hall, where the Hanukkah Menorah will be lit 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.

“The lights of the Hanukkah Menorah symbolize the freedom that the Jews have fought for and cherish,” remarked Markowitz. “By lighting the Menorah at Borough Hall, we remind the world that Brooklyn is a beacon for freedom-loving people everywhere. Just as the flames in the Hanukkah story miraculously burned for eight days with little fuel, I know the light of our Menorah will burn bright in the hearts of Brooklynites all year.”

Back to Bay Ridge

Also on Monday, December 14th, at 6:30 p.m., State Senator Marty Golden, in conjunction with the Southwest Brooklyn Parks Task Force, will host the first of two tree-lighting ceremonies in his district, at McKinley Park, Fort Hamilton Parkway and Bay Ridge Parkway.

The second tree-lighting ceremony will be held on Tuesday, December 15th, at 6:30 p.m., at Lady Moody Square, Van Sicklen Street and Avenue U.

Attendees  at these festive events can enjoy caroling, hot chocolate and visits from Santa. Those who wish can bring new, unwrapped toys to donate to Toys for Tots.

“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,” Golden remarked. “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. 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.”

For further information, call Golden’s office at 718-238-6044.

On Thursday, December 17th, 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.

Then, on Saturday, December 19th, and Sunday, December 20th, from 3 to 4 p.m., 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 Audubon Center, which can be reached by entering the park at Lincoln Road and Ocean Avenue, or Flatbush Avenue and Empire Boulevard. For further information, call 718-287-3400.

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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