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Dear Readers, 

One of the many reasons why people are drawn to Princeton is because it is a vibrant multicultural community. It’s not uncommon to hear half a dozen different languages being spoken while walking down Nassau Street, and my daughter and I used to make a game out of trying to identify the various languages we heard.

It might seem like December is all about Christmas and Hanukkah, but there are many other religious and cultural holidays celebrated this time of year. It doesn’t matter if you celebrate Diwali, Ramadan, Las Posadas, Omisoka, or Kwanzaa — everyone enjoys seeing the fully lit 70-foot Norwegian spruce in Palmer Square. 

The history of using evergreen trees to celebrate holidays dates back to ancient Egypt and Rome where it symbolized eternal life. The tradition of putting lights, sweets, and toys on the branches of evergreen trees placed in homes was brought to America by German immigrants in the 1700s.

Staying on the topic of culture and religion, David Nirenberg, the new director of the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS), has focused much of his scholarly works on ways in which Jewish, Christian, and Islamic cultures interact. His books and articles provide insight into modern-day racism, antisemitism, and Christian-Muslim relations.

Our readers most likely know that Albert Einstein was the IAS’s first professor but might not be aware that he left Europe at a time when intellectuals were concerned about rising fascism. more

Cameron Filepas in front of the window display he created for Thomas Sweet Chocolate. (Photo by Kelly Filepas)

How Cameron Filepas Creates Thomas Sweet’s Window Displays

By Donald H. Sanborn III

For two years, chocolate vendor Thomas Sweet has dazzled Palmer Square visitors with a charming window display for the holidays. The diorama depicts a snowy, colorfully lit — and lavishly decorated — village.

If the elaborate display seems to resemble a stage set, there is a good reason: Cameron Filepas, the former head chocolatier who decorates the windows, happens to be a theatrical lighting designer. His clients include both regional and educational theaters such as Luna Stage, Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Fairleigh Dickinson University, and many more.

“Ever since I was young, I always loved lights,” Filepas says, “whether it was holiday lights, Halloween lights, or lights on houses.” He discovered theatrical lighting when, “My mom would bring me to children’s shows in town put on by the Hopewell Valley Children’s Theatre; that was my first glimpse of theater.”

“We also used to see A Christmas Carol at McCarter. That was a tradition for my family,” says Filepas, who recalls that he eagerly learned as much as he could about the production.

He participated in theatrical productions in middle school and high school, taking advantage of the opportunity to join stage crews. “I realized that this was something I really wanted as a career, so I went to college for it,” he says. Filepas holds a BFA in Lighting Design from Montclair State University.

As for his interest in miniature displays, Filepas recalls, “When I was 10 or 11, every year we would visit my grandmother in Pennsylvania. We would go to a store called Cathy’s Christmas Shop.” Filepas was impressed by the store’s displays for Halloween, as well as Christmas, and was excited to see them every year.

“I told my mom, ‘I want to have a little village!’” Filepas continues. “So we went to Michael’s and bought a house, snow, and some trees. I used to set up little tables, in my bedroom, of these villages. It started off with one house, with a single road, and two little light-up deer.”

Another source of models was Department 56. Filepas adds, “Slowly, over the years, I grew these villages to the point where they went out into a hallway upstairs, and then took up the entire wall!” more

(Photos courtesy of

From Medieval Times to Today

By Mary Abitanto

Christmas cookies are a symphony of vibrant colors and glorious smells that awaken our senses. From the fragrant smell of sugar cookies or the aromatic scent of gingerbreads wafting from the oven; to the cookies bejeweled with colorful sprinkles or shaped into meticulously crafted gingerbread houses; to the crunch of a chocolate chip; and of course, at last, that long-awaited scrumptious bite that melts in your mouth — they are simply irresistible.

You may wonder where the Christmas cookie tradition began.

According to, it dates to medieval times when farmers celebrated the winter solstice. They would gather and store their harvest and as a community come together to share food and celebrate. Think of it as a time of dormancy when you couldn’t farm, and the ground was frozen. You had time to enjoy the fruits of your labor, so to speak. Celebrating with cookies was a popular choice as refrigeration methods were limited, so cookies were made to last on the kitchen table for weeks at time to welcome visitors. Cookies — which were prepared more like a biscuit from harvested grain and water paste — were made on hot stovetops and the cookies we know today (now sweetened with sugar) are said to be descendants of these first cookies/biscuits.

By the 16th century with the spread of Christianity, the Christmas biscuits had become popular across Europe, with lebkuchen (gingerbread cookies) being favored in Germany and pepparkakor (spiced ginger cookies) in Sweden, while in Norway krumkake (thin waffle cookies) were popular, using similar ingredients as their ancestors like cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, almonds, and dried fruit. By the 17th century Dutch immigrants, from a mostly Catholic-dominated country at the time, were said to have brought over Christmas cookies to America. The Dutch word koeptje (cookie) means small cake, and this was the start of the Christmas cookies we have come to know, love, (and eat!) today. And although things change, the more they stay the same in terms of spices used in modern-day Christmas cookies.

Princeton is a cultural mecca (one of the things I love about this town), so although we have our own interpretation of Christmas cookies based on our family traditions and heritage, we can agree that these are some classic holiday cookies: sugar cookies, snickerdoodles, spritz cookies, gingerbread cookies, pizzelles, Linzer cookies, thumbprint cookies, soft chewy ginger cookies, chocolate crinkle cookies, peanut butter blossoms, pecan snowballs, chocolate chip cookies, coconut macaroon, meringues,
and more.

Back in the day, my Italian aunts and grandmother, who were neighbors to one another, would bake cookies a few days leading up to Christmas. The Italians are known for making mounds of cookies for their large families. This was how we celebrated every Christmas Eve. As they say, many hands make light work. Most of us don’t live near one another, so family baking marathons aren’t always practical, and more planning is necessary. Of course, I know families who still gather to bake. more

How The Raptor Trust is Aiding New Jersey’s Wild Birds

By Taylor Smith | Photos courtesy of The Raptor Trust

The Raptor Trust is a leading bird rehabilitation and education center located in Millington, New Jersey, bordering the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge. Home to approximately 50 resident birds, the true goal of the nonprofit organization is to help heal injured birds and release them back into the wild where they can prosper and lead long, safe lives.

Executive Director Christopher D. Soucy, Ed.M., has been working at The Raptor Trust his whole life thanks to his parents, Len and Diane Soucy, who founded the center in their family’s own backyard. Soucy is quick to point out that he has participated in some form of wildlife conservation since he was 4 years old. While he spent time away in Colorado, the Garden State, and the dream of his parents rescue organization, called him back home.

The Raptor Trust receives daily calls from residents all over the state regarding the status and findings of injured wild birds. “All wild birds are treated and cared for at The Raptor Trust,” says Soucy. “This excludes any exotics, meaning birds that you can buy at a pet store.”

It’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to injure these majestic creatures. Maybe you saw an owl roosting in a barn in Bucks County or caught sight of a hawk circling Lake Carnegie. These birds naturally inspire awe in most who encounter them. So, how are these birds usually injured? more

Hobey Baker, Princeton Football photo. (Wikipedia)

Princeton University Hockey Coaches, Players Past and Present Celebrate Hobey Baker Memorial Rink

By Bill Alden

Darting up the ice or dashing past tacklers on the gridiron in the early years of the 20th century, Hobey Baker established himself as a one-of-a-kind performer in the pantheon of Princeton University athletics.

The legendary Baker, Class of 1914, is the only athlete to have been enshrined in both the College Football and Hockey Halls of Fame.

Beyond his sporting exploits, Baker set a standard for sportsmanship, known for being gracious in victory or defeat, often going into opposing locker rooms after the final whistle to congratulate opponents for their efforts.

After graduating from Princeton, Baker enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Service, serving with distinction as a pilot in World War I. He died in December 1918 when he crashed a plane just before he was scheduled to leave France and return to the U.S.

In 1923, Princeton recognized Baker’s impact by opening a rink constructed in his honor. The slate gray Gothic gem was built in a golden age of iconic venues still in use today like Penn’s Palestra (1927), Boston’s Fenway Park (1912), Chicago’s Wrigley Field (1914), the Rose Bowl (1922) in Pasadena, Calif., and the Los Angeles Coliseum (1923). more

Woolverton Inn

By Laurie Pellichero

When you just need to get away for a couple of days to refresh and recharge during the cold winter months, a stay at lovely historic inn, close to home, can provide the perfect respite. The Princeton and Bucks County, Pa., areas boast some of the finest small inns and bed and breakfasts in the country. Here is just a sampling… more

(Photo by Andrea Kane/Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ, USA)

By Wendy Greenberg

This past September, 281 new and returning scholars and faculty gathered for a new term welcome at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) in Princeton. Among them were a new director of Women and Mathematics; a faculty appointee who is a leading figure in the field of p-adic geometry; and members whose fields range from transcultural medieval and pre-modern African and global history to the mathematical procedure harmonic analysis.  more

(Princeton University, Denise Applewhite, 2013)

An Inspiring Structure Open to All

By Anne Levin

Back when Princeton University Chapel opened its Collegiate Gothic-style doors in 1928, students were required to attend religious services on Sunday mornings. Christian iconography is on view throughout the cathedral in its decorative masonry, woodwork, tapestries, and stained glass, which makes it safe to assume that these Sunday services followed the tenets of the Christian faith. more

By Stuart Mitchner

One minute in the life of the world is going by! Paint it as it is!

—Paul Cézanne (1839–1906)

Paint it, live it, or dream it, sculpt it, or mold it, whether the world going by is Tolkien’s Middle-earth, Tudor England, the rocky landscape of Cézanne’s Provence or the grottoes of Courbet’s Franche-Comté. Put Cézanne’s hypothetical minute between covers, and there’s room for the Night Kitchen visions of Maurice Sendak, and the pottery of Old Edgefield’s enslaved artisan David Drake. more

By Lynn Adams Smith

On Tuesday, November 29 at 7 p.m., Princeton Public Library and Labyrinth Books welcome author A.M. Homes to the Library’s Community Room for a discussion of her new novel, The Unfolding. Homes is the former recipient of the Women’s Prize for her book May We Be Forgiven. She is the author of 13 books and teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Princeton University. Homes will be joined in discussion by Princeton University professor Laura F. Edwards. Edwards is a legal historian whose research focuses on the 19th-century United States.  more

Discover the joys of the season close to home at Kelsey Theatre on the campus of Mercer County Community College (MCCC). The school will host a magical collection of movies, sing-alongs, musicals, classic Christmas plays, and free plays now through December 21. Guests are also invited to bring joy to a child this Christmas as Kelsey Theatre will be accepting donations for Toys for Tots through December 2.  more

Sky Zone, creator of the world’s first indoor trampoline park and part of the CircusTrix family of brands, has announced the end of their year-long renovations of attractions with the opening of Little Ninja. Little Ninja is a Warrior Course specifically designed for jumpers aged 7 and under. This three-story soft play is the first of its kind in a Sky Zone park with a Rock Wall, Zip Line, and Underground Tunnel just to name a few. Little Ninja opens in the parks’ specific Toddler Section, with an accompanied Foam Pit.  more

On Thursday, December 15 at 7 p.m., Princeton Garden Theatre presents a special screening of the holiday classic Christmas in Connecticut, starring Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Sydney Greenstreet, and directed by Peter Godfrey. Originally released in 1945, the film tells the story of Elizabeth Lane, a regular Martha Stewart, sharing her picturesque farm life and weekly recipes in newspaper columns read by housewives and homesick veterans throughout the world. The only problem is it’s all a ruse!  more

On Wednesday, December 7, Princeton Theological Seminary warmly welcomes the public back to the school’s annual Carols of Many Nations services in the Seminary Chapel. These services will take place at 3:30 p.m., 6:30 p.m., and 8:30 p.m. Seasonal readings will be conducted in the many languages represented by the Princeton Theological Seminary students and staff. Arabic, French, Ogworok, Italian, Kachin, Malayalam, Mizo, Swedish, and Ukrainian are just some of the spoken languages visitors will hear.  more


Chef Kris Welz and his team at The Fox & Falcon have come to the aid of stressed Thanksgiving cooks — just make the turkey and the rest is done. Order four delicious sides and fresh baked pies by 2 p.m. on Sunday, November 20 for pickup between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Wednesday, November 23. Orders can be made by calling the restaurant Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 973.419.6773. You can also visit, download the menu form, and email it to events.thefoxandfalcon@gmail.commore

Walk among the dinosaurs on December 17 and 18 when Jurassic Quest, North America’s most popular dinosaur show, stomps through the Pennsylvania Convention Center. This show will excite the whole family with life-like dinosaurs, some of the largest rideable dinosaurs in North America, live dinosaur shows, interactive science and art activities including a fossil dig and real fossils like T-Rex teeth, a triceratops horn, a life-size dinosaur skull, a “Triceratots” soft play area for the littlest explorers, bounce houses, and photo opportunities.  more

This holiday season, the Monmouth Museum Train Display will make its much anticipated return, brought to the public by Hackensack Meridian Health – Jersey Shore University Medical Center. The nostalgic display opens November 19 and runs through January 8. It features four Lionel trains winding through an over 30 foot exhibit of towns, mountains, cities, and more. Alongside the trains, the Main Gallery hosts the 20-foot holiday tree and Pat Brentano’s show, “Consider the Trees.” The Nilson Gallery will showcase artwork available for purchase from museum members.  more

Can you imagine rowing through ice floes and then trudging through a blizzard in the middle of the night, with miles to go and only fragmentary remnants of shoes on your feet? This was no ordinary escapade. The fate of an entire country rested on these men’s shoulders and their pursuit of outsmarting and out battling the enemy.  more

Join Princeton Senior Resource Center (PSRC) on Monday, December 5 from 8:15 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. for a trip to Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pa. Celebrate seasonal splendor in all its forms while strolling beneath the floral designs, festive trees, and bold poinsettias. There will also be botanically inspired light displays, festive treehouses, and floral shop window displays.  more