From festive gifts made right here in Maine to model train enthusiasts, from French pastries in Portland to winter driving tales, this issue has something special for everyone. But beyond the holiday fanfare, the theme you’ll find popping up throughout is one of family. We share memories of Christmas trees past, paying homage to my absolute favorite family activity: the schlepping, the debating, the cutting, and the decorating that is the family-tree acquisition process. Anyone with a kiddo in their life will be excited to read about the production of The Snow Queen (the original Frozen!) coming to Portland this month.
But we also include the kind of family stories that don’t make the Hallmark Christmas cards: messier, more complicated Maine family stories. And yet, my hunch is that even on those pages, you’ll see a bit of your own family. Paul Doiron eloquently pays homage to his Franco heritage and reflects on the generational consequences of assimilation, like the void left by not learning to speak French. (Je voudrais écrire en français, mais mon père n’a pas enseigné à moi non plus. Merci beaucoup, Google Translate!) And Ron Currie Jr. explores his (perhaps) unlikely friendship with his cousin, a relationship that bridges “the two Maines” and two ends of the political spectrum.
This issue isn’t about politics or how many Maines there are, but as this year ends and we look ahead to an election year in 2016, we know the divisive rhetoric here and across the country is likely only to get louder. In his essay, Ron reflects on overcoming such divisions in his own family and how it might have relevance for each of us. “Maybe the first step to a diverse culture that can effectively govern itself,” he writes, “is to chuck political identities altogether and just figure out how to, you know, like each other as human beings, rather than members of opposing tribes.”
Hundreds of thousands of you are reading this as part of our Down East community. And though we may have differences of opinion, our shared love of Maine is something that truly does bring us together. And there’s no better time to celebrate that. — Kathleen Fleury
For some folks, the mere mention of the holidays evokes the romance of the rails — real trains, model trains, toy trains. Let us take you on a ride.
Our annual gift guide is your ticket to stylish, creative, and thoughtful gift-giving — all while supporting Maine’s small businesses and artisans. By Laura Serino
The best part about having a real Christmas tree? Putting your boots on and heading out to find it, of course Photographed by Cara Slifka
My Intractable, Gun-Loving, Anti-Government, Right-Wing Cousin, (Who I Like a Lot)
On a visit back home to central Maine, one writer contemplates “the two Maines,” peace on Earth, and good will towards Ben. By Ron Currie Jr.
Can you name this pretty park and the town where it’s found?
Down East Family
What You Said
North by East
Opinions, Advisories, and Musings from the Length and Breadth of Maine
Down East Dispatches
News You May Have Missed
It Only Has to Last the Winter
What’s in a Picture
The First Flying Santa
Does Maine Need Coyotes?
Living the Maine Life
A Currier & Ives farmhouse
Into the Wildwood
Making It in Maine
Room With a View
What to Do in Maine This Month
The Snow Queen vs. Frozen
Liza Rey Butler’s Lullabies
From Our Archives
On the cover: Bringing in the Tree, by Cara Slifka