It was a scene out of a Christmas story: streets lined with children and families, walking from shop to shop, gathering around small fires to toast marshmallows, sidewalks illuminated with paper-bag lanterns and brass bands playing holiday songs.
One day after the Capitol Holiday Tree made it’s final stop before arriving in Washington, D.C., the Town of Vienna again got a chance to display its holiday spirit, as the Holiday Stroll on Historic Church Street provided an opportunity for the community to gather, light the town Holiday Tree, and take a peek into a few shops to start their shopping.
“We remembered how much fun we had last year and had some time before her basketball practice, so we thought we’d drop by,” said Beth Kehoe, who browsed the extensive back room of Once Upon a Time, filled with doll houses. She and her daughter, Julia Kehoe, wanted to get into the holiday spirit by taking a peek at what the doll-filled store had to offer.
“I don’t get a chance to come in here often because I work during the day, and it’s closed when I get off,” Beth Kehoe said. “We’ve never been this far back in the store.”
Julia Kehoe was looking forward to getting a marshmallow from one of three fireboxes set up along the street.
“We have at least 50 bags of marshmallows,” said Tony White, one of three men presiding over the roastings. He was surrounded by children of any age, and a pile of empty bags nestled on the shrubs behind him told of his popularity on Monday night.
“I’ve only had a couple myself,” he said with a laugh.
Janice Daucher and her daughters, Amanda and Kimberly, stepped into the Freeman House for a quick break from the chilly night.
“We came down to see Santa Claus and the celebration,” Janice Daucher said. The girls, who originally came to sit on Santa’s lap, had changed their minds about waiting in line.
“They might want to visit him later,” she said, handing out some chocolates to her daughters.
“I like the shopping the best,” Kimberly Daucher said timidly.
THE FREEMAN HOUSE, with Santa perched on his throne in one corner and Mrs. Claus welcoming children, was open for tours and, of course, candy.
“People come in here for warm bathrooms and candy,” said tour guide Anne Stuntz. “It’s a great evening, and the kids love it.”
She said the house was opened for the event because “lots of people don’t know we exist because we used to only be open on weekends,” she said.
The highlight of the evening was the lighting of the town’s Holiday Tree, courtesy of Mayor M. Jane Seeman.
“The Church Street Stroll has become a tradition,” she said before throwing the switch to illuminate the tree on the corner of Church and Mill streets. “Besides proclaiming the beginning of the holiday season, the shops on Church Street open up for the beginning of the shopping season.”
The bulbs on the tree had been decorated the evening before by children who had attended the Capitol Holiday Tree Celebration on Sunday night, decking the lights out with magic marker designs.
“This is one of many little celebrations we have in Vienna,” Seeman said.