2011-12-21 / Features

Crowley Honors Discoverers Of Caroling History

Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley, along with Councilmembers James Gennaro, Karen Koslowitz, Ruben Wills, and Eric Ulrich, honored local students and historical groups at City Hall on December 19 for their efforts to uncover the historical significance of Christmas caroling in America.

 Crowley invited Aquinas Honors Society students from the Immaculate Conception School in Jamaica Estates to sing Christmas carols on the steps of City Hall. After the performance, Crowley presented the children with a proclamation at the City Council’s Stated Meeting.

 Last year, the honor students worked with their teacher Carl Ballenas, a member of the Richmond Hill Historical Society, on a research project about Jacob Riis, a famous muckraking journalist from Richmond Hill. The students discovered that Riis visited ill and homebound people during the holidays and sang Christmas carols to lift their spirits, a tradition that began 100 years ago. The discoveries led to the students publishing Jacob’s Gift, which details how Riis brought Christmas caroling to America.
Also honored by Crowley was Maple Grove Cemetery. The Riis family plot is located in Maple Grove, and when General Manager Bonnie Dixon learned about the students’ project, she generously helped to promote their historical projects including Jacob’s Gift.

The final honoree of Monday’s ceremony was the Josephine Foundation. Last year, the foundation’s President Andrew Joseph Koslosky worked with the students to bring Jacob’s Gift to a wider audience. The Josephine Foundation organized a reading of the book, set to music, at the Noel Concert at Flushing Town Hall last year.

 Crowley stated: “Teacher Carl Ballenas of the Richmond Hill Historical Society assisted with the Aquinas Honors Society students’ research project that uncovered the great historical ties Queens has to Christmas caroling in America. This year marks the 100th anniversary of Christmas caroling in America, a fitting time to honor the hard work of the students as well as groups like the Richmond Hill Historical Society that help preserve [the] great history of Queens.”

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