The Sears catalog, delivered to homes nationwide in the weeks preceding Christmas, was as anticipated as ol' Santa himself. If you lived in Southern New England, you probably received the Jack and Harry's catalog too.

Both catalogs brimmed cover to cover with photos of toys: bikes, dolls, erector sets, jump ropes, and every gadget and gizmo that appealed to kids in want of presents under the Christmas tree. A not-so-subtle circle around a particular item hinted to Santa what to deliver on Christmas Eve.

Another indication that Christmas was coming was the decorations that made downtown storefront windows sparkle and glimmer as shoppers rushed past wreath-baring street lights to the sound of Salvation Army bells that pierced the cold December air.

How The Grinch Stole New Bedford's Common Park Christmas
Courtesy Spinner Publications

What made the Christmas season special for me was the Festival of Lights spread throughout the seven-acre Clasky Common Park, bordered by County and Pleasant Streets.

The festival was magical, featuring an array of wooden structures, animated figures, thousands of lights, Christmas music and Santa Claus. It was amazing.

The festival, which began in December 1952, was discontinued in 1973 after vandals destroyed much of the display and the city lacked funds to replace it.

The Grinch stole Christmas.

How The Grinch Stole New Bedford's Common Park Christmas
Courtesy Spinner Publications

The park remained dark for a dozen years until 1985 when the public and private sectors worked cooperatively to raise the money to restore a less elaborate Festival of Lights. The festival has continued ever since.

Since its inception, decorating and lighting the park each Christmas season has been the work of New Bedford City employees, students and faculty from Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School.

The Festival of Lights is the spirit of Christmas, wrapped up in an all-sensory presentation that reminds us of the charm and allure of being at home in New Bedford for the holidays.

Holiday Decorations at New Bedford's Clasky Common

We took a stroll around Clasky Common in New Bedford to check out some of the holiday decorations before the lights came on and the crowds arrived. Fans of Edaville Railroad in Carver may recognize a few of these displays.

Gallery Credit: Tim Weisberg

New Bedford's Ice Skating Rinks of the Past

New Bedford's Brooklawn, Buttonwood, and Victory Parks drew huge crowds to their ice skating rinks. Check out some vintage photos courtesy of Spinner Publications of what it was like on the ice in the Whaling City back in the day.

Gallery Credit: Barry Richard

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