Let Hope Ring: Holidays in Harvard Square

Let Hope Ring: Holidays in Harvard Square
Churches, Bell Ringing, Giving and Poetry

As an alternative to traditional holiday events, Harvard Square Business Association and their partners will hold safe activities to celebrate community, encourage help for those in need and express hope for brighter days ahead. 

The Harvard Square Business AssociationLincoln Institute of Land PolicyLongfellow House–Washington’s Headquarters National Historic SiteCambridge Office for Tourism and Cambridge churches are offering several ways for the community to celebrate outdoors at a physical distance and virtually.
Please enjoy this very special tribute to our local churches entitled, “Sacred Spaces and Good Works” as well as our Holiday Poetry Stroll, Giving Tree and Bell Ringing.    

We send sincerest appreciation to the Harvard Square Business Association officers and board of directors. Their leadership and commitment during these challenging times have allowed our staff to continue to work unabated. We are grateful.

We wish you health and happiness during this holiday season. Please continue to take good care,

Denise Jillson, Bill Manley, Amanda Henley and Shaylin Bowers 

Sacred Spaces and Good Works

In celebration of our faith-based community and the historically significant buildings that house them, we created a series of 13 videos entitled ‘Sacred Spaces and Good Works’ that commemorate their service to our community. 

As with our Pandemic video, these videos were also narrated by Kevin Tyler, an unhoused gentleman, member and friend of the Association. The music was composed and performed by Cal DiGiovanni, a 13-year old Harvard Square street performer.

Each video in this series features a specific house of worship located in the Square and will be released in chronological order (when the church was founded) each day at 3pm as noted below. The video series will be featured on harvardsquare.com as well as Harvard Square’s FacebookInstagramTwitter and YouTube

December 11th             1632 The First Parish in Cambridge, UU 
December 12th             1633 First Church in Cambridge, Congregational 
December 13th             1744 Memorial Church of Harvard University
December 14th             1759 Christ Church 
December 15th             1844 Old Cambridge Baptist Church 
December 16th             1870 The Society of Saint John the Evangelist 
December 17th             1873 St. Paul Parish
December 18th             1901 Swedenborg Chapel  
December 19th             1928 University Lutheran Church  
December 20th             1930 First Church of Christ, Scientist, Cambridge 
December 21st             1941 Harvard-Epworth United Methodist Church  
December 22nd            1961 Holy Trinity Armenian Church 
December 23rd             2003 Outdoor Church 

To view the complete series, please see here.   

Bell Ringing

During one of the darkest moments in American history, the Civil War, Harvard Square local, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, heard hope ring in the winter air and wrote a poem, “Christmas Bells”, hoping for peace on earth and goodwill to all.

This year, the churches of Harvard Square will spread a message of hope and resilience by ringing their bells in unison, at 3 p.m. on Dec. 11th and Dec. 23rd. 

Many will also ring bells on the day that their congregation is featured, including.

  • First Parish
  • First Church
  • Christ Church
  • Swedenborg Chapel
  • University Lutheran Church

Follow @HarvardSQ and @LONGNPS on Facebook for each installment. 

Giving Tree

A longstanding Harvard Square tradition, The Giving Tree is both a physical tree and an opportunity to provide essential goods to those who need them. The Harvard Square Business Association will collect hats, gloves, socks, travel-sized hand sanitizer, lip balm and scarves and package these items in watertight bags and place them under the Tree. The Giving Tree is located on Deguglielmo Plaza (27 Brattle St. in front of Bluestone Lane). Gift bags are complimentary for anyone to take. The tree will be up from December 2 through January 6. 

New this year, the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy will collect online donations in support of The Giving Tree project. All proceeds will be used to purchase items for The Giving Tree, including clothing and gift cards for food from local establishments, which have been impacted by COVID-19. To make a donation, please visit the donation page or contact Shirlynn Jones at sjones@lincolninst.edu.

Denise Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association said, “We are grateful to our many members for their kindness and generosity. In so many ways, Harvard Square is a village. This is one more example of how our village works; we not only care for the Square, but care for our people in the Square. There is a spirit of warmth that is deeply felt during this cold, dark season. The HSBA is committed to this annual Harvard Square tradition.

In addition to Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, and Longfellow House-Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site we are thankful to East Boston Savings BankCambridge Savings Bank and the City of Cambridge. We also thank Blue Heron Renaissance ChoirCambridge Office for TourismHarvard COOPJVT RealtyOrinocoPrellwitz / Chilinski AssociatesSEE EyewearTrinity Property Management and University Common Real Estate. Their generosity allows us to festively light the Square which provides a cheerful and comforting backdrop for what has been a challenging year for all.”

Jillson further stated, “We are particularly grateful to the Electrical Department under the supervision of Steve Lenkauskas and Tom Grande and the DPW under the leadership of Owen O’Riordan. Staff from both departments worked diligently in helping us decorate the Square and set up the Giving Tree.

Working together, the Square looks merry and inviting and our Giving Tree is humbly providing for people in need.”  

Holiday Poetry Stroll

After a particularly challenging year, the Holiday Poetry Stroll is an opportunity to share hope and light through verse. Designed to be safe and self-guided, this approximately one-hour walking tour around Harvard Square highlights some of Cambridge’s renowned poets, past and present, with a focus on how they found hope in trying times. The tour will also feature window art on vacant storefronts in Harvard Square and poetry ornament keepsakes decorating trees in Deguglielmo Plaza. For more ways to participate this holiday season, check out the park’s website.

Contact for Poetry Stroll: Anna Christie, Park Ranger.

“Christmas Bells”
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow