On this, the darkest time of the yr, town of Harmony is aglow.
In entrance of the State Home, lanterns shimmer on a powerful metal menorah, a Christmas tree sparkles with coloured lights, and tender mild illuminates a standard Christian Nativity scene.
Close by, a highlight shines on a winter solstice show that depicts the Founding Fathers, the Statue of Liberty and the Invoice of Rights.
Welcome to the vacation season in New Hampshire’s capital metropolis.
Whereas many communities have opted to keep away from vacation shows for concern of offending some, Harmony’s strategy is “the higher means,” stated the Rev. Raymond Ball, pastor of Immaculate Coronary heart of Mary Catholic parish: “When the general public sq. is made obtainable to the totally different teams and folks in the neighborhood, to indicate forth what’s vital to them.”
“It’s about having mutual respect for individuals of various religion traditions,” he stated. “It’s an important testomony to the group and what binds us collectively.”
“Individuals in Harmony are fairly cool about one of these factor, fairly tolerant of others’ beliefs,” agreed Tim Sink, president of the Better Harmony Chamber of Commerce.
Seems that spirit of coexistence hearkens again to the start of this nation. The town’s identify means “a state of settlement: concord,” in response to Merriam-Webster Dictionary.
Throughout Colonial occasions, a boundary dispute arose between the governments of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, in response to Elizabeth Dubrulle, director of training and public packages on the New Hampshire Historic Society.
The language designating the border was imprecise at finest.
“It says three miles north of the Merrimack, so no one is aware of what meaning,” Dubrulle stated.
As settlers explored farther inland from northeast Massachusetts, they realized that the Merrimack River turns and runs north to south. Massachusetts claimed its territory prolonged to the supply of the river, not its mouth, she stated.
“So that you’ve obtained two legislatures attempting to get individuals to settle this land,” she stated. “However some charters are conflicting with each other.
“So the entire thing is a large number,” Dubrulle stated. “It sounds just like the Wild West.”
Each side appealed to the British king to settle the dispute, and the crown in 1740 determined the dispute in New Hampshire’s favor.
The issue was, loads of individuals already had settled the realm. Settlers within the city of Bow had a constitution from the New Hampshire authorities, whereas residents of Rumford and Suncook had charters from Massachusetts.
Lastly, in 1765, the 2 factions sat down and negotiated a compromise.
That’s when Rumford was renamed Harmony, “within the sense of concord,” Dubrulle defined. “In order that they hope from that time ahead, all the pieces goes to be calm and peaceable, but it surely hasn’t been in any respect as much as that time.”
“It’s aspirational,” she stated.
Greater than 250 years later, Harmony — which finally grew to become the state capital — could also be a bit nearer to residing as much as these aspirations.
“I feel it’s nice that we truly can let everybody’s religion and beliefs be represented,” Dubrulle stated. “And I feel that there’s something quintessentially New Hampshire about that.”
That spirit of co-existence additionally displays an early motto for the brand new nation: “E pluribus unum,” stated Ball, the Catholic pastor.
“It’s meant to be ‘one out of the numerous,’” he stated, “how we are able to have a look at the numerous traditions and cultures that make up the material and the kaleidoscope of our nation.”
Final Sunday night, crowds gathered for the primary evening of Hanukkah, the eight-day Pageant of Lights within the Jewish religion. There have been treats for the children, a dancing dreidel and the ceremonial lighting of the menorah.
Rabbi Levi Krinsky, government director of Chabad of New Hampshire, which sponsors the annual observance, stated the menorah has been a presence on the State Home grounds for 33 years.
“It’s very welcoming and really rewarding for many individuals,” he stated.
“We don’t take it as a right,” Krinsky stated. “It’s peaceable and completely happy and places smiles on individuals’s faces and places heat of their hearts.”
Harmony Grange, Aerie 613, sponsors an annual Christmas parade and tree-lighting competition on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
This yr’s was the 71st annual parade; in all these years, it was solely canceled as soon as for climate, in response to Brian Blackden, who directs the occasion for the Grange. Even in the course of the pandemic, the parade went on.
Harmony, Blackden stated, “is only a well-meaning group.”
He’s completely happy to see the menorah and Christmas show share the general public sq. every December. “I feel it reveals that totally different religions and totally different ideas will be collectively and be OK with each other,” he stated.
“It’s alleged to be a superb time of the yr for everyone,” Blackden stated.
‘Love each other’
The Nativity scene is sponsored by the Knights of Columbus Council 112. Roger LaFleur, the council’s grand knight, stated the custom goes again for many years.
Christmas is a central occasion for trustworthy Christians, LaFleur stated. “That is when the newborn Jesus was born and got here all the way down to earth to be sacrificed for all of us women and men for our sins and for our salvation,” he stated.
Jesus’ message was clear, he stated: “To like each other. That’s the place we put our religion.”
In that spirit, LaFleur stated he welcomes the Hanukkah observance that shares house with the Christmas show. “That is the time of yr for sharing, and giving, and caring,” he stated.
“What sort of an individual — what sort of Catholic — would I be if I had been to look down my nostril and push them apart and say they haven’t any proper to share their religion and their perception?” he requested. “It will be fairly hypocritical.”
Individuals of all faiths have values in frequent, LaFleur stated: “You consider in sharing, you consider in a God, you consider in love, you consider in peace.”
In Harmony, non-believers even have their place within the public sq..
Jack Shields places up the annual Winter Solstice show, that includes Ben Franklin, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and the Statue of Liberty worshiping the Invoice of Rights positioned in a manger.
It invitations the group to “be part of us in honoring the Invoice of Rights, adopted on December 15, 1791, which reminds us there will be no spiritual freedom with out the liberty to dissent.”
“Hold faith and authorities separate,” it proclaims, and provides the web site for the Freedom From Faith Basis (ffrf.org), a nationwide nonprofit group promoted in a TV industrial by Ron Reagan, the son of former President Ronald and Nancy Reagan.
Shields, who grew up Christian however is now an atheist, stated the realm in entrance of the State Home is “a free-speech zone.”
“Anyone can go down there and spout off something they need,” he stated. “That’s how all of them coexist.”
Shields stated he doesn’t “give a hoot” in regards to the plaza having a Christmas tree, which he stated “has morphed into goodwill and no matter you wish to put onto it.”
He put up his show in response to the Nativity scene, which he thinks could be extra applicable in entrance of a church. “The creche is unquestionably a non secular assertion,” he stated.
However he stated, “They insist on having it within the public sq..” So he’ll hold placing up his Invoice of Rights show yearly.
“That is my counterpoint,” he stated.
The Invoice of Rights show doesn’t hassle Rabbi Krinsky. “We don’t proselytize,” he stated. “We’re simply there to achieve out to the Jewish group.”
Krinsky encourages everybody to watch their religion, no matter that could be: “To put on their faith proudly, to be happy with their heritage.”
“We’re so happy with New Hampshire, that it’s so completely happy and peaceable,” he stated.
What message does Harmony, and by extension New Hampshire, ship with this strategy to the vacations?
“That we do have this kind of independence of spirit, and that we acknowledge that different individuals have that independence as effectively,” the Historic Society’s Dubrulle stated. “And we honor it by giving their beliefs and their values as a lot significance as we do our personal.”
“At our greatest, that’s what we’re alleged to be,” she stated.
The Knights of Columbus’ LaFleur gives a distinct reply: “Hope.”
“There’s nonetheless hope for our nation, there’s nonetheless hope for our world, to have the ability to repent and to have the ability to discover a method to share in what we share in Harmony.
“It’s not too late,” he stated.