Christmas Eve at the Old Dutch Church

It is, indeed, the season of regenerated feeling–the season for kindling, not merely the fire of hospitality in the hall, but the genial flame of charity in the heart.

    — Washington Irving, from “Christmas” in The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.

Photo: Moira Gargano

I like to think that geography has a spiritual side. That there are places where the numinous breaks through into the ordinary world leaving a palpable imprint that beckons the wayfarer to slow down and listen. The Old Dutch Church is such a place. When the colors of fall have faded away and the northwest wind blows a chill through the burying ground, Legend makes way for Mystery as another spirit, a truer spirit, takes over the landscape. The Feast of St Nicholas opens a door to the ancient stories that still the soul and stir up a spirit of generosity. Even the secular world bows its head to these forces as we see men, women and children standing in line, stamping their feet against the cold, eagerly waiting to enter through the church doors to hear one of our favorite story-tellers regale them with Mr. Dicken’s tale of a grouchy man, three spirits and sweet redemption. His spoken word echos the Incarnate Word that makes a home here. The actor’s stage becomes church again. Props and spotlights are stashed away and the Great Book is placed back on the ancient oak table. Some greenery displayed here and there, enough to announce the season but not so much so as to disturb the Calvinist simplicity of this sacred space. The play’s house manager reclaims his conventional role as sexton and tired candles are replaced, hymn books are restored to pews, and wood is gathered to feed the stove. Musicians and choristers climb the winding staircase, feeling their way in the dark to take their places in the loft. Bells are unpacked and stand ready for gloved hands to ring in the celebration while the fragrance of hot apple cider, cinnamon and nutmeg fills the air. The pastor waits in silence to light the Christmas candle.

It is the eve of our Lord’s birth at the Old Dutch Church and all are welcome.

Christmas Eve Services, Tuesday, December 24th:

5:30 pm – Service for families with small children

7:00 pm and 9:00 pm – Lessons and Carols with Full Choir

11:00 pm – Lessons and Carols with Soloists

Notes: The Old Dutch Church has the distinction of being a church and a National Historic Landmark. We are happy to share our space with Historic Hudson Valley’s production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”, told by Hudson Valley master story-teller Jonathan Kruk and musician/story-teller Jim Keyes. Church sexton, John Paine manages the house on those occasions.

Sandwiched between the story of Rip Van Winkle and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow are a set of Christmas stories that reflect Washington Irving’s joyful experience of the traditional English Christmas. I don’t think it’s too bold to say that Mr Dicken’s Christmas story owes a great deal to Mr Irving.

The choirs of the Reformed Church of the Tarrytowns are under the direction of Jeremy and Mi-Won Goldsmith. Christmas Eve Services are a great time to hear our Fritz Noack Tracker Organ in all it’s glory.

Deborah McCue

Daughter of a hula dancer and WWII vet. Born and raised on the East Coast and brought up by my Hawaiian grandmother. Mother of 2 married daughters and wife of a guy who still keeps me laughing after 38 years of marriage. Tutu to a lovely grandson! Docent at the Old Dutch Church of Sleepy Hollow - think Legend. Member of the Reformed Church of the Tarrytowns