For those of us who believe in government as the civilized way to make decisions about matters in life that affect us all, the action at the Lowell City Council this evening is reason for optimism. Our municipal representatives and professional staff in collaboration with the various labor unions in the city found their way through a complex negotiation over the future of city health care insurance coverage and its cost. The City Council unanimously congratulated the leaders and members of 19 unions and City Manager Lynch’s team for a “signal achievement” that will benefit those participating in the city plan and the taxpayers of Lowell. This has been a longstanding topic of discussion on Tuesday nights. All involved deserve much credit for finding a solution.
One of my favorite Christmas traditions is placing candles in the windows of our home. I still use some triple candles used years ago to light-up the Sweeney home on St. James Street. While the white light is my preference, my mother preferred the soft glow of amber in her windows. Growing up as the oldest of five, many of the decorating chores fell to me – candles in the window, decorating the fireplace mantle, creating a wrapped-box Christmas gift motif on the front door, helping set-up the illuminated manger nestled in the front yard shrubbery. Bill and I celebrated our first Christmas together was just days after our wedding in 1967. It was a hectic time but a thoughtful shower gift of Christmas tree decorations and a stand meant we just needed a tree. Bill spent the outrageous sum of $5 for a beautiful tree from Danas Market on Andover Street – it was their last one! Over the years we’ve collected many ornaments in our travels and searching never missing a perusal in those special Christmas shops. Alas, this year they are still stored as we have downsized to a smaller table-top tree – it glows with white lights and some small gold balls. We have a second small tree that glows with lights and miniature Waterford ornaments that speaks of our Irish heritage and a reminder of the special significance of a light in the window in the homes in Ireland.
The candle in the window at Christmas symbolizes many things in Ireland. It’s still a favorite traditional Irish Christmas decoration, harkening back to that ancient Christmas Eve when Mary and Joseph could find no shelter. It is a symbol of Irish hospitality – a way of welcoming Mary and Joseph…and any travelers who might happen to pass by looking for a warm place to stay.
In the days when it was illegal and even dangerous to practice the Catholic faith in Ireland because of the oppressive Penal Laws, the candles seen in the windows of Irish homes at Christmas also signaled traveling priests that this was a home where they would be welcome and where they could safely conduct the traditional Irish Catholic Christmas Mass.
The words from the “Kerry Christmas Carol” give a senses of the roots of this old Irish tradition”:
Don’t blow the tall white candle out
But leave it burning bright,
So that they’ll know they’re welcome
here This holy Christmas night!
What are your family, faith and ethnic traditions?
Above from left: Brian Martin, Bill Martin, Jim Milinazzo, Rita Mercier, Niki Tsongas, Richard Howe Sr, Bud Caulfield, Armand LeMay; from October 2010 in front of Lowell City Hall.
Tonight is the final city council meeting (for now, at least) for three councilors. The meeting begins at 6:30 pm and will be televised live on Lowell’s cable channel 10 and will stream on the website of Lowell Telecommunications.
Bud Caulfield (second from right in the above photo) began his council career in 1987 with a 5th place finish. He went on to serve twelve consecutive terms, consistently finishing near the top of the ticket in city elections. Bud served as mayor twice, in 1996-97 and in 2008-09. He did not seek reelection in 2011.
Jim Milinazzo (third from left in the above photo) came onto the council in 2003 with a strong 3rd place finish after having finished 10th in the previous election. He won reelection in 2005, 2007 and 2009 and served as mayor in 2010-11. He was unsuccessful in this 2011 reelection effort, finishing 12th.
Franky Descoteaux served a single term on the city council after finishing a strong 3rd in 2009. In that election, she and Patrick Murphy were credited with being the first candidates for local office in Lowell to make electronic media central to their successful campaigns. Descoteaux has not ruled out running for public office again in the future.
Thank you to these three dedicated public officials for their years of service to the city of Lowell.
Last night, I went to a Christmas party in the suburbs. The destination was off Route 40, out the Chelmsford-Tyngsborough way, down among the woodsy parcels along Dunstable Road. Now, is it just me or can it be said that every third person drives routinely with his or her headlights set to high-beam or “brights” as the default night setting? I’m getting older I admit, but I don’t remember having to squint and dodge as much in the old days when cars and trucks approached at night. The rule of the road is to click off the extra lights when another vehicle comes into view. Did that change in some manual that I missed? It is dark out there in the towns of Greater Lowell, so you need the added beams to find your way. I don’t want to sound like cranky Andy Rooney, but I’m curious about other people’s experiences. My friend Jack McDonough could have made an amusing radio essay of this topic for the old Sunrise program of WUML, 91.5 FM.
Two views of the Swamp Locks from Tony Sampas. The Swamp Locks are on the Pawtucket Canal along Dutton Street, midway between the intersections with Fletcher and Broadway. Together with the Guard Locks further up Broadway and the Lower Locks outside the UMass Lowell Inn & Conference Center, the Swamp Locks allow boats to safely bypass a 32 foot drop in the Merrimack River over the course of a half mile.