Kelly C. Catalfamo
Mystic - Hundreds of people crowded into Mystic Seaport on Sunday afternoon, and most of them were wearing Santa hats: red Santa hats, green Santa hats, Santa hats with a springy coil, Santa hats with elf ears, sequined aqua blue Santa hats, Dallas Cowboys and New York Giants-themed Santa hats.
The festive group visited the Seaport to participate in the 58th annual community carol sing. They gathered at Anchor Circle, surrounding a brass quartet and a little choir that stood on the steps to the Mallory Exhibit Hall. The crowd spilled out of the grass circle and families stood in the walkway, climbed onto fire escapes and balconies or leaned against buildings.
Mystic Seaport offered free admission on Sunday to anyone who brought a non-perishable food item or made a cash donation, which the Seaport will give to the Pawcatuck Neighborhood Center. Before the carol sing, visitors could print Victorian Christmas cards at the Print Shop, watch carving and ship-smithing demonstrations, make a souvenir toy or participate in an event held at Treworgy Planetarium that discussed the winter skies in terms of science, mythology and religion.
At 3 p.m., the visitors convened at the anchor circle to sing carols. The event lasted more than an hour and participants sang songs both religious and secular, from "Frosty, the Snowman" to "Away in a Manger."
The weather-about 50 degrees and overcast, with the occasional raindrop-was hardly wintery, but the crowd still sang and jingled along. For visitors who were cold even on such a mild day, coffee, hot chocolate and apple cider were on sale at a table near the circle, and thirsty adults could add Kahlua or rum to their drinks for an extra $6.
The celebration wasn't limited to humans: several people brought dogs to the event, from a giant Irish wolfhound to a pug dressed in a green and red and covered in jingle bells. The animals greeted each other with excited barks, and children tugged on their parents' sleeves to point out each pet as it walked by.
Conductor Jamie Spillane singled out a caroler who was been at the community sing every year since it started more than 50 years ago, and several in the crowd enthusiastically raised their hands and shook their bells when he asked who has attended regularly for the past ten or twenty years.
But not everyone in the crowd was participating in an old tradition.
Doug Parulis of Oakdale was at the event with his father, who said he'd been taking his family to the community sing for thirty-plus years. But it was the first time Doug's wife, Kay Parulis, came along.
The family had stood at the back of the circle with their daughters, two-year-old Nora and six-year-old Abby.
Kay said she thought the event was "very nice," but Abby, though shy, seemed more enthusiastic. She showed off the jingle bell that hung from her neck and said her favorite song was "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," which the crowd sang twice.