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EDITORIAL: Songs That Will Lift Even a Grinch’s Heart

December 26, 2018

With the afterglow of Christmas cheer still in the air, we’d like to commend one young girl’s mission to share that special feeling of the season. Theresa Letarte, 7, proved to be wise beyond her years. Having watched several Christmas movies with her family, including the Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol, she decided her hometown of Lunenburg’s spirits would be lifted by the return of a Christmas tradition popular in Victorian England -- strolling carolers.

Now, it’s not unusual to see groups of friends going house to house serenading neighbors with Christmas favorites, but Theresa took it a step further. “She really wanted to do it with a Charles Dickens flair,” her father Chris told the newspaper.

And with her parents’ help, that’s exactly what she did. With fabric they purchased, they made 10 Victorian-era hooded cloaks that Theresa and her friends could wear. They even bought a top hat for older brother Waylon to accentuate that Dickensian effect.

With virtually no caroling experience, Theresa’s family and young friends took to the streets for a dress rehearsal last Thursday. Selecting houses with Christmas displays, their untrained but enthusiastic voices filled the air with those heartwarming songs of the season.

Much to their delight -- and some surprise -- the Victorian stroll struck a musical chord with the community. They received several requests for other caroling appearances, which lasted no doubt right up till Christmas Eve.

Buoyed by their success, the Letarte family plans to make Christmas caroling an annual tradition.

We’d like to thank Theresa Letarte for reinforcing what many grownups have either dismissed or forgotten -- the real meaning of Christmas. And we’d like to see this celebration of Christmas spread to other communities -- like Lowell. Dickens visited the Mill City twice, including a stay in 1842 -- a year before he wrote A Christmas Carol -- when he marveled at what he perceived as a more humane Industrial Revolution taking hold in this country.

More reason to cheer

More good news for the Massachusetts economy.

The Bay State’s unemployment rate fell to 3.4 percent in November, thanks to the addition of an estimated 4.600 jobs. It’s the lowest jobless figure since 2003, and three ticks below the national average of 3.7 percent. Massachusetts added 60,500 jobs between November 2017 and November 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development’s estimates show that 3,707,800 Massachusetts residents were employed and 130,000 were unemployed, for a total labor force of 3,837,000 in November, up 4,200 from October.

The sectors that gained jobs last month included trade, transportation, and utilities; professional, scientific, and business services; education and health services; and information. Financial activities, construction, other services, and manufacturing lost jobs during November.

Despite the encouraging overall picture, not all regions of the state share equally. Parts of Massachusetts, especially beyond the Interstate 495 belt, continue to lag behind.

That’s indicated in the regional jobless breakdowns. Several areas, including Greater Lowell (3.8), Leominster-Fitchburg-Gardner (4.4), Pittsfield (4.3), and Greater Springfield (4.8) have work to do in job creation.

Spreading the wealth to all corners of the Commonwealth must be one of Gov. Charlie Baker’s -- in conjunction with the Legislature and key business leaders -- top priorities in his second term.

The ‘spirit’ of the season

A few Groton-Dunstable Regional High School students painted the famous “Spirit Rock” with “ho-ho-ho” and “Merry Christmas” recently, in protest of a district policy that bars religious displays. Such questions vex school districts that must straddle religious freedom and a secular public space. Not all Groton and Dunstable residents will celebrate Christmas tomorrow; the New England Shirdi Sai Temple opened recently in Groton, for example.

The students exercised their right to protest. The district painted over the rock. One student said Principal Michael Woodlock treated them with “respect and understanding” in a meeting. Everyone seems to be better for the debate.

And that qualifies as a Christmas miracle.

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