“In the age of political correctness, we came up with the idea of a ‘Holiday Inspiration Tree,’ ” said Rosanna Robin. “The idea was to include a diverse community in the spirit of the holidays.”
Robin lives in the Park Hudson Building, 9060 Palisade Ave. in North Bergen. The tree is located in the downstairs lobby of the building, by the garage entrance.
The Holiday Inspiration Tree is in part a reaction against political correctness that Robin sees as impacting the holidays, making people tiptoe around anything that smacks of religion. She decided to come up with a symbol that included everyone, instead of avoiding symbols altogether.
The fractured state of international affairs was another impetus.
“The community is so diverse in terms of religion: Jewish, Christian, Muslim,” said Robin. “All income levels: low, middle, high end. We wanted to unify everyone together in a cultural way.”
Robin is an interior designer by trade. She got approval from the condo board and they purchased the tree. Some decorations were donated by residents, while Robin supplied ribbon and other goodies.
“The community is so diverse in terms of religion: Jewish, Christian, Muslim.” –Rosanna Robin
“We had the children write down what they aspire to be or what inspires them,” said Rosemary Assante, who helped bring the tree to fruition. “And then roll up the paper really tiny and put it in a star ornament and hang it on the tree.”
Kids could keep their messages private, between them and the tree, or share them.
“One aspired to be a professional ice skater,” said Robin. “Another wanted to be a great gymnast. Many revolved around activities they do now, taken to the next level.”
“One girl wrote, ‘I aspire to be a ballerina,’” said Assante. “One asked me, ‘Can I write that I’m inspired by my teacher?’ A lot of the kids aspired to go on to really good colleges. At such a young age they were already thinking about colleges.”
“This is a very positive thing,” Robin said. “It’s a way to unify and bring together as one. The kids that came were completely diverse, from different backgrounds, doing something positive.”
Robin has lived in North Bergen for about three and a half years, having originally grown up in New York. “I’m from a very diverse community,” she said. “I’m Italian-American. My mom’s from Italy. My best friend was Hispanic. I was always involved in different nationalities, personalities, cultures. This stems from that, how my parents raised me. There was always an extra plate set at the table for friends and relatives.”
The kids were invited to decorate the tree on Dec. 1. The decorating day was a big success, resulting in a beautiful fixture that residents continue to add to.
“We actually had a really fun time doing it,” said Assante, who has lived in the building for 11 years. “It was our first endeavor, but we’re hoping that next year it gets bigger and better.”
“We want to start a tradition and get more people involved in the future, unifying different cultures,” said Robin.
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.