Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas Traditions: The Tree in Palmer Square

Every year, the weekend after Thanksgiving, Princeton has its own tree lighting in Palmer Square, a very upscale stretch of boutiques across the street from the university. All the stores put up these beautiful garlands of fir boughs, pine cones, and red ribbon -- and since there are lots of stone archways throughout the square, there are tons of these garlands and lights everywhere. But the real highlight is the massive tree in the center of the square. It towers over all of the buildings, and is covered in thousands of lights.

So this is more of a town tradition than a Keddie family tradition... The only "family tradition" part of all of this is that every December, I walk by Palmer Square and tell myself I need to remember to take some pictures, and every December, I forget.

But not this year!

We made a date night of it tonight, with the specific purpose of walking to Palmer Square to take pictures. It actually snowed a bit this morning, and even though it had turned to rain by noon, there was still a little left on the ground tonight when we took our walk. It was a perfect, crisp, winter evening, snow crunching under our feet as we strolled down Nassau Street...

Yes, okay, so we made a stop at the bank before continuing on our romantic moonlit stroll. We've been so busy this week, with Christmas parties and other events, that we had to multitask a bit on our date night. But I was already in picture-taking mode, so here's an example of the garlands strewn about all over Palmer Square. Look how pretty it is!

We got to the square, and saw this poor guy all covered in snow... I think the statue is supposed to represent a university student, diligently reading while waiting at the bus stop. My dad always gets a kick out of this statue -- I can't tell you how many pictures we have of him sitting next to it, or of me and/or my brothers sitting around and/or on top of him. He's almost life-sized, so it almost works as a picture conceit...

Then we made it to Palmer Square proper. Isn't it quaint? Although it was all built at the same time, in the 1940s, as a part of an urban renewal project, the architects took the time (and had the money) to design each unit separately, with a mixture of styles and materials, so it looks like the buildings grew together over time. The stores are mostly super high-end boutiques, with the occasional chain store like Coach or Ralph Lauren -- so we only go there for window shopping purposes. They really do it all up right for Christmas!

And then, of course, the main attraction -- the Palmer Square tree. It's a massive old tree, with slightly thinning branches and shaggy greenery, so it looks a little sad in the summer. But in December, those seeming flaws come together to make for a stunning Christmas tree -- because of the thinning branches, you can see all the lights on both sides of the tree at once, since the lights on the opposite side shine through the gaps in the branches. And the shagginess of the greenery catches the light and looks majestic at night time. There's a metaphor in there somewhere (I'm thinking something along the lines of the Velveteen Rabbit), but instead of trying to be witty, I'll leave you with a picture of the tree itself: