Week in Alexandria

Scottish Origins

Alexandria’s Christmas Walk dates back to mid-1960s, a time when the YWCA had a colonial theme for the festivities. Then, in 1970, everything went plaid. That was the year that the Christmas Walk became the Scottish Walk, a theme chosen to celebrate the city’s Scottish founders.

The kickoff that year happened Friday night in Market Square with a program titled “All Hail to Christmas.” The next morning, Scottish pipers and drummers wearing kilts opened the doors of various places on the walk, starting at the “Scotland House” at 607 South Washington Street, where the owners accepted the traditional sprig of heather as a formal salute to Christmas.

At noon, the pipers gathered at the stops of the Old Presbyterian Meeting House, where the public was invited for a service of carols and anthems with a message from William Sengel (father of longtime Commonwealth’s Attorney Randy Sengel) on the contributions of the Scots in Alexandria.

A Scottish menu was also the theme of the luncheon served at Christ Church that year, including a rib-sticking Tartan Hot Pot along with smoked salmon and anchovy butter. Tickets were only $3.50, and that included a fashion show.

As the Campagna Center prepares for the 50th anniversary of the Scottish Walk, those humble origins many years ago have grown into a holiday juggernaut that attracts visitors from across the region.

“2020 is not only the 50th anniversary of the Scottish Walk, it’s also the 75th anniversary of the Campagna Center,” said Andrew Palmieri, chairman of the board of directors. “So it’ll be a really big year for us.”

Planeando Para el Futuro

It’s rare that planning for the future has been such a high-stakes endeavor. But the arrival of the new Amazon headquarters in Arlington is creating an unprecedented sense of uncertainty in Arlandria, a neighborhood of Latino residents that hugs the southern border of Arlington.

Housing values are expected to skyrocket, and the cost of living is also expected to rise dramatically. All of that is creating pressure in a neighborhood where the median household income is about $54,000 and 77 percent of children speak Spanish at home. City officials are responding by conducting a series of neighborhood sessions, including an inaugural event that was conducted entirely in Spanish.

“I cannot remember the last time the city held a meeting entirely in Spanish,” said Councilman Canek Aguirre, Alexandria’s first Latino member of City Council.

“I can confirm it was our first planning meeting that was conducted entirely in Spanish,” added City Manager Mark Jinks.

“Wonderful,” responded Aguirre. “This is an area that’s going to be highly impacted, considering the arrival of Amazon and Virginia Tech. Their voices are going to be very important in this planning process.”

Transgender Moment

Two years ago, Virginia elected its first transgender member to the oldest lawmaking body in the New World: Danica Roem. Since that time, the august chamber has dropped gender-specific titles in favor of more neutral language and people started adding gender identifiers to their Twitter profiles. Now Alexandria may be on the verge of having its own transgender moment.

Councilman Mo Seifeldein says he’s preparing an amendment to the city’s Human Rights Code to add gender identity and transgender status, which he says is long overdue. He plans on formally introducing it later this month.

“No one should have to be left out of the Human Rights Code,” said Seifeldein, announcing the proposal last week. “This is acknowledging a person’s basic humanity.”

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