Well, actually River Vale and Westwood. I live in River Vale and need to travel through the center of Westwood in order to get to the Garden State Parkway so these are the two towns that I’m most familiar with.
Westwood has a main shopping street along Westwood Avenue which is decorated with miniature white lights in the trees and wreaths on each lamppost. The wreaths are lit mostly with white lights but occasionally with multi-colored lights.
At the eastern end of the main street is Five Corners and the small wedge shaped Fireman’s Park. The park has a silver statue of a fireman near the point of the wedge and facing Westwood Avenue. Further back is a stone structure with a fire bell.
At Christmas time the park gets a spotlighted large crèche between the statue and bell and two large white lighted wreaths on the front and back of the fire bell structure.
At the western end of Westwood Avenue is Memorial Park. Memorial Park in Westwood is classic Norman Rockwell Christmas atmosphere. There is a 25 foot live tree decorated yearly with multi-color lights; the gazebo is typically decorated as well; the train station is right along the park and the war monument stands in silent tribute. There is also a large Menorah placed at the most prominent corner near the train station which, to be honest, spoils the atmosphere slightly. It looks out of place and something of an afterthought.
River Vale isn’t as classic, but it has a decorated town center at Four Corners and additional holiday decorations near town hall a little ways north on Rivervale Road (one of the great mysteries of life is why the town name is River Vale but the street is Rivervale Road).
In River Vale the telephone poles have miniature white light outlined snowflakes; the light poles and shrubs in the center of town have miniature white lights wrapped around them and a red lighted “Season’s Greetings” banner is hung over Westwood Avenue which runs east and west through Four Corners to Rivervale Road’s north and south. To be honest, I could do without the “Season’s Greetings” banner. It looks kind of dull.
There is also a Menorah and tree with red, blue and green lights set up by the clock at Four Corners. The Menorah is scheduled for lighting on December 15th.
I caught an announcement for the “Holiday Tree” lighting at town hall on December 4th on the town bulletin board but the town web site called it a Christmas Tree lighting. The tree at town hall is lit with multi-colored lights, there is a crèche right next to it and two reindeer outlined in white lights a short distance away.
Another great mystery of life is how roads get their names in New Jersey. Westwood Avenue extends west from a T with Washington Avenue in Old Tappan. It runs through River Vale and on the town’s western edge is intersected by Cedar Lane. If you turn left off of Cedar Lane you’re on Westwood Avenue. If you turn right you’re on, SURPRISE, Cedar Lane! There are no other options.
About 200 feet west Sand Road terminates at and apparently annihilates Cedar Lane because after the intersection it’s Harrington Avenue. Harrington Avenue runs northwestward through Westwood and dies at Five Corners. But before you get to Five Corners you’re forced to turn right along the 50 foot back of Fireman’s Park on a tiny road called Park Place as Harrington Avenue suddenly becomes one way when it reaches Fireman’s Park. You then turn left in order to continue through the center of Westwood. The road you turn west onto is, Westwood Avenue! But this is not the same Westwood Avenue as the street that morphed into Cedar Lane.
If you follow this 2nd Westwood Avenue as it flows northeast it changes, without any noticeable warning, into Demarest Avenue. You got all that? Oh yeah, one other thing. If you follow Westwood Avenue through the center of Westwood and cross the railroad tracks you discover the road has now become Washington Avenue, but not the same Washington Avenue that the other Westwood Avenue terminated on back to the east in Old Tappan. And they wonder why people get lost in eastern Bergen County.
This may sound nuts but it’s not as bad as western Bergen County. There are two Wyckoff Avenues there and they cross. That gives you the intersection of Wyckoff Avenue and Wyckoff Avenue.
But I digress.
The question I meant to ask is “are the two crèches” legal?
I have no idea. I suspect probably not but I don’t think anyone really cares. The decorations celebrate the holiday season. I don’t believe the Nativity Story. I’m convinced that it’s a fable, but it’s a good story in the same way that Santa Claus and Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer are good stories.
The Evangelical Church in River Vale has a simple pine needle decoration lit with miniature white lights framing its door. St. Andrews church in Westwood has its usual “Keep Christ in Christmas” sign but no other decorations.
The teachers at Roberge School in River Vale are buying gifts and assorted other goods for the children of a family in town that has fallen on hard times. My youngest daughter arrived home last night with a bag full of toys to drop off at the annual “Toys for Tots” campaign sponsored by the Marine Reserve at Sunday’s Giant’s game.
The last two are the real Christmas decorations. Peace on earth, good will toward men is still a good idea. Merry Christmas everyone.