Warren group re-kindles beloved holiday tradition

The late Ray Medley took this photo of the Maxwell House decked in holiday finery in 1980. The late Ray Medley took this photo of the Maxwell House decked in holiday finery in 1980.

To the editor:

At its November meeting the Massasoit Historical Association voted to renew the tradition of “lighting” the Maxwell House during the holiday season.The custom it had discontinued a number of years ago is being brought back in memory of the late past -president Ray Medley.

The association felt it was a most appropriate tribute of president Medley who spearheaded a movement to put candles with clear bulbs in Warren windows back in the 1970s. When it began, members of the association embraced the project and switched to clear bulbs to set an example for the community. A small group of association members undertook the lighting not only of The Maxwell House but also the George Hail Free Library, the Town Hall, the United Methodist Church, the Masonic Temple, and the Baker Street Fire Barn but it was Ray who organized the activity.
A Nov. 16, 1977 article in the Warren Times read “Christmas candles flicker to life again.” The article told how in the 1920s residents of Warren, particularly in the Washington, Broad and Lyndon Street areas, had the custom of putting real candles in their windows on Christmas Eve. It was reported that people from as far away as New Bedford, Taunton and Pawtucket came to view the illumination. By 1927 electric candles began to appear and were replacing the real candles.
In 1977, when the article appeared, window candles with clear bulbs were the exception as most of the people who were putting candles in their windows were using colored bulbs. The association researched clear bulbs available at the time and cautioned that there were two types of clear bulbs available and for those wishing to renew the custom  and bulbs of 120 volts would be the appropriate choice. Massasoit compiled a list of merchants who carried appropriate bulbs and candles at moderate prices and even offered contact phone numbers for people who wanted more information on the custom.
Thirty-five years have passed and technological advances makes lighting the Maxwell House far easier than in 1977. Gone are the days of screwing a bulb only to have it glow extra brightly for a second and then burn out, of numerous custom-made extension cords plugged together and then into timers that failed to function. This year the Maxwell House will be lit with battery operated candles with built in timers that won’t fail to click on and with LED bulbs that won’t burn out as soon as plugged in. The members responsible, some still the same people as in 1977, would not wish to go back to the way things were  for all the window candles with clear bulbs in the town of Warren.

John Chaney

Massasoit Historical Association

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3 Comments

  1. CM said:

    Times have changed. I understand that this is a tradition in this part of the country, but we can’t keep doing things that are wasteful in the name of tradition. Putting artificial candles in your windows wastes environmental resources. It wastes electricity, batteries and the plastic and metal that the candles are made of. Neither the batteries for the candles are recyclable, and they will end up in landfills. Warren will be partially underwater as soon as 2060, and much more of it will be underwater in 100 years. We are facing an environmental emergency but aren’t taking it seriously. In fact, people shouldn’t even be leaving their porch lights on overnight. We need to stop wasting energy in every way possible.

      • CM said:

        I would like to add that there are many businesses in Warren which leave their lights on overnight. That is a very wasteful practice. Who is window-shopping at 3:00 a.m. in Warren? NO ONE. Putting one’s lights on a timer is an easy thing to do. Personally, I would like to see a state law that says that all retail establishments must turn off their window lights by midnight. By midnight, no one is out shopping or even window-shopping. The World Bank predicts that our world will be unrecognizable by the year 2200 because of changing climates. We need to take this environment emergency seriously.

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