Like so many Sea Isle residents, Mayor Leonard C. Desiderio was looking forward to spending time with family and friends and enjoying all the town has to offer today at Christmas and throughout the holiday season.
Living in a beach town puts a whole new perspective on the winter wonderland aspect of the holiday, he said, but it is all a continuation of his childhood, celebrating at his grandparents home in Newark, NJ, just in a different setting.
“It started out at my grandparents, and when they passed away my mother took over the tradition at our home in Nutley, and today our family is keeping the tradition going in Sea Isle,” he said.
“More and more of our people who own summer homes here are using them more often, on the weekends, especially the holiday weekends.” Desiderio said. “It seems like everyone wants to spend the holidays at the Shore. They always ask what is it like when it snows on the beach, and we tell them “its actually quite beautiful.”
He said the town is jumping this weekend with people shopping, dining, and enjoying parties. “You see them out taking pictures by our lifeguard boat or out with their families on the beaches,” he said, “and many of those pictures wind up on Christmas cards that have a beach theme or a Shore theme.”
As a child, the Mayor recalls the traditional celebration of the Feast of the Seven Fishes, celebrated by so many Italian-American families in Sea Isle and nationwide.
“To tell you the truth, it was a lot more than seven fishes. We never counted, but it was a lot. It started out with my grandmother’s baccala soup and from there the fish dishes would arrive and there would be ravioli, lasagna and more fish dishes.”
“Christmas Eve was very special to us. It was the feast but it was also getting together and sharing good times with the family.”
He said it is still that way today, and the scene is repeated all over town.
“It used to be that things really slowed down after Labor Day,” the Mayor said, but now there is so much happening in town that the restaurants and businesses are staying open longer, particularly on the weekends. And this has created a spillover effect to other businesses, which draws more people into town. These days we are seeing more and more people coming down for Christmas and staying right through the New Year’s holiday.”
According to Desiderio, who also serves as vice chairman of the /Cape May County Freeholders Board, New Year’s Eve is “huge in Sea Isle.”
“All of our restaurants and (taverns) are open and providing a great atmosphere for people to ring in the New Year. Our fireworks at midnight are a big attraction and we seem to draw more people into town every year.”
“Things are different than when I was young, but it’s really the same tradition of families and friends getting together and relaxing, enjoying the holidays and enjoying each other,” he said.
When asked to sum up his feelings, the Mayor opted instead to extend a holiday wish. “I just want to say Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy 2018 to everyone and to enjoy the holidays in Sea Isle City.”