Photos: Ivy A. Turner
By Irina Grechko
Fifteen years after a small group of Charles Street business owners decided to decorate the streets for the holidays, Holiday Decorating Days in Beacon Hill has grown into an annual event that adorns every lamp post in the neighborhood. This year’s two-day event attracted its biggest crowd — more than 100 people.
“A local floral designer showed us this design of wrapping a laurel around the pole and hanging the bows,” said Ivy A. Turner, who has organized the event since 2000.
Initially, the Beacon Hill Business Association championed the holiday event and the Beacon Hill Civic Association joined in later asthe main sponsors t and to help get more residents involved. Suzanne Besser, BHCA executive director, said that her group focuses on bringing people together to improve the quality of life on Beacon Hill.
“We do a lot to foster community experience and build a whole relationship between everyone. This [Holiday Decorating Days] is probably one of the biggest community events because it brings us all together. It makes a Beacon Hill a better neighborhood to live in if you all get together and do things like that. It’s community building,” she said.
Holiday Decorating Days expanded from Charles Street to adorning of lamp posts on Charles and Cambridge streets, and eventually came to decorate every single street on the Hill.
“In 1999, I got the idea that for the millennium, we would have once in a lifetime event. We would decorate every single lamp pole in Beacon Hill for special millennium celebration,” Turner said.
It was a difficult, slow task as every group had only one Sunday, to cut the laurels, put the wires on and then decorate each post. While planning the decoration of every lamp as a once in a lifetime event, feedback from residents was so positive that after 2000, Holiday Decorating Days became an annual event.
The current version came together when volunteers had the idea to make it a two-day event.
“He [volunteer] said, if we found a place where we could cut the stuff the day before, we could have this big event where we could get the stuff ready and the next day it would be a lot easier. And then someone got the idea that if we had a van we could drive it around to people to make it manageable. And then the Otis House Museum got involved and said they would host this event,” Turner said.
With enough headquarters and space, on Saturday, volunteers cut and wire the laurel garlands, sort and package the bows into smaller bundles. A van then drives around to deliver supplies to block captains, who are responsible for either one block or the whole street.
Sunday, the decorating continues, with volunteers assigned to different groups and streets, until every single lamp post is adorned with a laurel garland and two red bows.
This year’s crowds got Turner in the spirit of the season.
“Today’s event was really our best ever. It was the biggest turnout, the most enthusiastic people and the hardest working. It was a total different feeling than past years. This year, volunteers came and planned to stay and work a lot. They came prepared to work for a whole day.” she said.
In addition to a large participation from the local residents and members of the Beacon Hill Civic Association, an unexpectedly large number of Suffolk University students, members of the Beacon Hill Young Professionals and volunteers from Boston Cares.
Jay Faro, a Beacon Hill resident, said this year was his ninth time as a volunteer to the Holiday Decorating Days event.
“It’s a lot of fun. It’s a great way to meet people. Volunteers from the hill come down and we all work together and so people that maybe I don’t see from one end of the year to the next, I get a chance to see them today. And I get to meet new people,” he said.
Turner said friendships form and at least four marriages have resulted among people who have met on decorating days. One reason she said she loves this event is the sense of community and tradition.
“ I think tradition is important. And I think it’s something people look forward to and it makes people feel more part of their community. And I think when you walk around a neighborhood and every single lamp is decorated, there is a different feeling when you know that you helped,” Turner said.