By Eric Maring

Maring 1
Eric Maring is a local music educator and performer, and author of the new book, Two Little Blackbirds. Visit for more information.

Here in Calvert Hills, we enjoy our annual tradition of lighting a Christmas tree at the corner of Dartmouth Avenue and Amherst Road. Santa flies in on a firetruck, handing out candy canes and posing for pictures with families as the community celebrates in the cold. A blessed neighbor often sets out a fire pit and another doles out hot chocolate or hot toddies while we cluster around the fire’s warmth and celebrate in song. Our neighborhood appreciates traditions and the meaning that they embody; it’s a gratitude that we share and don’t take for granted. 


Like so many things this year, our tree lighting was partly virtual, masterfully orchestrated by Cameron and Kelsey, two determined and caring neighbors who have spearheaded the event for several years now. Santa (another blessed neighbor … shhh, don’t tell the kids it wasn’t Kris Kringle) waved to his fans from the back of a pickup truck, escorted by the College Park Fire Department. The neighborhood was grateful to see the tradition of bringing light go on this year.


Seeing holiday lights on trees and homes reminds us of a larger light, the hope and joy this season brings. When my family celebrates the lights of our two December traditions, Chanukah and Christmas, we especially revel in the extraordinary music that we listen to and play. One of my all-time favorite bands is Indigo Girls, a duo whose reflection, activism and vision of hope infuses all the music they create, year after year. In May, they released a remarkable new album “Look Long,” with a title track that resonates with insight about the pandemic era, especially as my family celebrates the rituals of the holidays.


The rituals we celebrate this season ask us to remember and reflect, to imagine generations past, and to honor and cherish what is before us, both in the sense of what came before and what is before us, here and now. These holidays ask us to look long at the meaning of traditions, such as how something so extraordinary as the simple melody of “Away in a Manger” has been passed from musician to singer, to children to grandparents, and back again — and again, and again. And how frying latkes — the potato pancakes so many of us love — has brought generations together around a table for centuries. And how the messages of peace and wonder, within and without, continue to resonate every holiday season, even in these trying days that not one of us could have imagined. 


As we look to the new year, may we look long for that larger light and see the gifts that truly matter.