Christmas has returned to the heartsick village of Sandy Hook, where a school massacre one year ago overwhelmed the holiday season. Children are now performing the pageant that was canceled last year at Newtown United Methodist Church. Congregants are once again singing joyful carols outside the homes of shut-ins.
But traditions have changed to reflect a community that is at once healing and still traumatized.
The pageant hour has moved from morning to night, so as not to suggest it’s business as usual around here. Carolers no longer ride in a school bus: “That would have been too much,” says the Rev. Mel Kawakami, senior pastor at NUMC. Even accepting gifts doesn’t feel right to clergy and lay leaders this year: They’re asking for donations to local groups instead.
“It starts to feel like reclaiming Christmas,” Kawakami says. “But we wanted to be able to do something different.”