There was a toddler with drumsticks bigger than himself drumming out a beat with the band. There was a little girl named Destiny, at the petting zoo, who just wanted to climb the fence to get closer to the goats. And Benjamin, with a head of curly hair and a mouth covered in icing, whose eyes grew huge at the green flying dragon of a nearby ride. Everywhere you looked, children in face paint dragged their parents through Winter Wonderland. This was a day of pure happiness and joy.
Prior to the unveiling of the indoor amusement park Winter Wonderland, these families ate pizza, danced, and sang to musicians on stage. Senator Elizabeth Warren, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, and Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone were in attendance to hug, shake hands, and hear stories.
Then, the Boston PD bagpipe band entered the room, in kilts and synchronized march. They led a procession of Disney Princesses and Minions, Wally the Green Monster of Fenway, Batman, Curious George, and then, finally Santa with Mrs. Claus aboard a cherry picker.
In Winter Wonderland there was a funhouse style Magic Maze, the Polar Express, a Harry Potter themed slide, and a merry-go-round. Everywhere you looked, there were games, rides, characters, and smiling, shouting children. Mayor Curtatone spoke about how Christmas in the City showcases the “true capacity of the human spirit.”
One month prior to this special day, these families filled out a wish list given to them at their homeless shelter. For more than 4,000 children and their families, every day life is a struggle, uncertain and unsure. But today they dressed in their best, combed their hair, and celebrated Christmas without a care in the world. Later in the afternoon, a line snaked around Winter Wonderland that led to one man – Santa Claus. It was here where those wishes were made real, and every child received their individual gift.
Christmas in the City began in 1989 by Sparky and Jake Kennedy as a way to teach their children about helping others less fortunate than themselves. From that first year of 165 families, the event has grown drastically. Christmas in the City is 100% volunteer staffed, and all gifts are donated. Senator Warren said to the crowd, “You make all Massachusetts’ holidays better.”
Christmas in the City doesn’t just end with one party. The next day is Monday Mania, in which up to 10,000 families who are not necessarily homeless but toeing the poverty line and still in need receive gifts that include backpacks filled with hats, gloves, and toys. When asked if his children continue to look at Christmas as a celebration of helping and giving, Mr. Kennedy explained that all four come home for this event, and one of his sons’ jobs continues to be snow production. Kennedy’s words to the crowd ring true, and are especially resonant on a day like this day: “Don’t ever let anybody ever tell you you’re not special.”