One town will soon gather together to sing celebrate the holidays.
Oley’s Christmas in the Valley invites community members to gather at different points to meet in the center of town to sing holiday songs together. The three points include the Oley Fire Company, Weis parking lot and Friedens Church.
After 18 years of being held on a Sunday evening, this yearly event has moved to a Saturday.
According to Krissi Swavely, creator of the event, the day has changed due to several requests last year. “People don’t want the gathering to end,” said Swavery, explaining that many people will continue the holiday gathering at their homes with family members.
During the event, songs book and candles are passed throughout the crowd. Those with instruments are invited to play along and everyone invited to sing. Cookies and hot chocolate are also provided to participants and luminaries, candle bags, are set up throughout town.
In regards as to why she created the event, Swaverly says that she thought Oley is a “quaint town” and it needed such an activity to celebrate the holidays.
According to Swaverly, the local Boy Scouts are a big help by filling the luminaries and handing out the song books. The church also helps by preparing and offering hot chocolate.
“It’s just a nice time for the town to get together—it’s our way of giving back,” said Swaverly. “It’s amazing that people come every year—and look forward to it every year. They love it.”
Swaverly says that people used to think that the township organizes it, but that is not the case. The event is actually put together by a dozen or so individuals that make up the Christmas in the Valley committee.
Cookie donations are requested for participants to enjoy during the event. Non-perishables, canned goods and toiletries are also requested as donations to benefit the Oley Valley Food Pantry of Friedens Lutheran Church.
“We all need food,” said Swaverly, explaining that in the past the event has held a toy drive for Toys for Tots.
This year, the committee has adopted a local family this year to support throughout the holiday seasons through food and presents. Money has been raised by the committee through a Coach Purse Bingo which was held, as well as through donations.
“It takes a lot of participation to make it happen. My whole family is involved,” said Swaverly, continuing to state that a few of the members have been on the committee for several years. “It’s a great group of people that make it run and we do a lot of work.”
Swaverly, who initialized the event 18 years ago, hopes to someday pass the responsibility onto her daughter and/or daughter-in-law.
A music coordinator keeps the flow of music going for the crowds. Chip Strunk has reportedly held this position for several years. The activities have been known to last for about an hour.
“We try to keep it going, because it does get cold,” said Swaverly. “It’s evolved and it just keeps going. It amazes me every year. When I stand on the porch [of the former Oley Valley Inn] and look at the people in the street—it amazes me.”
There is no ‘bad weather’ date scheduled. The event is held rain or snow. Swaverly says if the weather is bad then the event moves to the pavilion in the Oley Fairgrounds.