‘Tis the Season: Prominent RIers share what the season means to them

The holiday season evokes a wide range of reactions from southern New Englanders, from full-on participation in the spiritual elements of the season to engagement with shopping and other secular activities (lights, parties, Frosty, et al) to flat out rejection of the season as nonsense.   

Family time generally is a consistent theme throughout the season, and holiday traditions that are passed down and modified through generations are a fun way to examine our history and discover how we have collectively built this magical and unique time period.

I recently asked several prominent Rhode Islanders to describe their favorite holiday traditions. Here are a few of their answers.


Scott MacKay (political analyst, The Public’s Radio):

One of my favorite traditions is going to Boston Common to see the lights. I’ve done it since I was a little kid and I’ve always enjoyed it. It is really nice to see people in an urban environment doing something like that.  

But also, the biggest thing that I do every year is I go to is the Christmas Carol service at Central Congregational Church. It’s always held just before Christmas and it gets 700 or 800 people. The whole neighborhood seems to come, and that’s a tradition that my wife and I really appreciate. That’s our probably our favorite.

Michelle Cruz (director of community engagement, Trinity Repertory Company, musician):

I’m also the music curator for the Burnside Music Series and I love the energy that we bring to Burnside Park. I was quite literally walking around downtown thinking, “Is there a cool way to blend my work at Burnside with my work at Trinity?” As a musician, I love the idea of being around people, through music, through songs, using your voice, lending your voice. So on Friday, December 6, anyone can join us at 201 Washington Street at 5pm and we’re going to head over to City Hall and we’re going to be caroling along the way. We’ll then help Mayor Elorza light the city’s tree!

Chef Frank Terranova (NBC10’s “Cooking With Class,” Johnson & Wales University):

This is a nice state aesthetically — other stuff has issues, but what are you gonna do? I’ve got my family here, and having an Italian background, Christmas is the big one. Thanksgiving is huge, Easter is big, but in the Italian community, Christmas is the ultimate. Matter of fact, my house is already decorated. I use lasers now, I’m not gonna do like The Griswolds, too much of a pain in the neck!

Dan Blakeslee (singer/songwriter, artist):

I always notice that on the holidays, I feel like you’re walking around and people always say, “Hi” and it’s like, “Hey, let’s do that every day!” I started doing this thing where I just kind of nod and say hi to people as I’m walking by. Most of the year, like 90% of the time people look away. They’re like, “Oh man, that guy’s weird.” But then the other part of the time it’s like, you can tell, it’s like, “Oh my God. Someone said hi to me. How strange and beautiful.

Jim Vincent (president, NAACP Providence):

For me, it would have to be the high school Turkey Day action. High school football playing on Thanksgiving Day. I think it’s a good highlight of the holiday season.  

Look out for many more answers and beyond in The Bartholomewtown Podcast Holiday Special this December at