Rockin’ around the Christmas tree

The front of Town Hall was transformed into a holiday wonderland Monday afternoon at the town’s annual tree lighting ceremony, put together by the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Approximately 70 residents came out to celebrate, including plenty of children, who had the chance to meet Santa, Mrs. Claus, an elf, Frosty the Snowman, and Rudolph, all of whom were on hand to greet community members and hand out toys.

Many youngsters also enjoyed rides on Lucy the polar bear and Maurice the moose, two mechanical animals who took children for a spin around Town Hall as others indulged in cider, hot chocolate, cookies, and candy canes.

Entertainment for the afternoon was provided by the Greenwich High School Chamber Singers. The group performed a number of holiday favorites while donning festive Santa hats and even asked the audience to join in a few carols. The music didn’t stop there, though, as registrar of voters employee Ruby Durant also belted out some Christmas tunes and asked the crowd to join her.

Many residents enjoy attending the tree lighting ceremony every year, but for others this year’s event was new. Such was the case for M.J. Rose and Doug Schofield, town residents for more than 20 years, who enjoyed the occasion for the first time Monday afternoon. The couple said they attended the event simply for fun and enjoyed the festive atmosphere. Their dog, however, was not as thrilled by the event, they said, and spent much of it running away from Lucy the mechanical polar bear.

For Rosette Kalayjian and her husband, the tree lighting was a way to introduce their 20-month-old son, Ari, to the holidays, she said. Although the trio attended the event last year, Ari was too young to appreciate it. This year, however, the toddler was mesmerized by the sights and sounds of the occasion. He spent plenty of time gazing at the various holiday characters roaming about, although he kept away from Frosty, who seemed to frighten him, she said with a laugh.

Greenwich’s tree lighting ceremony is a particularly special occasion, not only because of its festive nature but because of the sense of community felt among attendees, Ms. Kalayjian said. Additionally, she said, the event is simple, allowing residents to roam around freely and take part in whichever activities interest them, which makes for a carefree occasion.

Greenwich resident Ella and her friend Penelope, both age 9, said they were excited to be at the ceremony to watch the tree light up and were anxiously awaiting their post-event trip to McArdle’s Florist and Garden Center on Arch Street to see Santa’s reindeer, where they will be through the Christmas season.

Ella said her favorite part of the ceremony was the Greenwich High School Chamber Singers, but that her favorite part of the Christmas season as a whole was spending time with loved ones. Each Christmas Eve, Ella goes to her grandmother’s house for an Italian Christmas celebration with family and food, which spills over into Christmas day, she said. It’s nice to spend so much time with family, she added.

Wrapping up the festivities before the big countdown to the tree lighting, First Selectman Peter Tesei thanked attendees for beginning their holiday season with the town.

“We are very pleased that you are here to join us for this wonderful occasion to kick off the season in the town of Greenwich,” Mr. Tesei said. “All you young people out there hopefully got your lists made; you know which ones are naughty and which ones are nice,” he said. “I’ve got a couple of naughty ones here so their list is going to be very short,” he added with a laugh, pointing to his own son and daughter.

On a more serious note, Mr. Tesei sent his best wishes to the community for a healthy and happy holiday season.

“Best wishes for 2014 for good health and prosperity, and in closing I just want to say that we are very blessed to live in such a wonderful town of so many talented and giving people and I hope we all can cherish, respect and appreciate that as we look ahead to 2014,” he said.

When it was time for the official lighting ceremony, attendees gathered around the large tree outside Town Hall to get a good view. Children led the way as approximately 30 youngsters sat around the tree and guided the countdown. The tree was officially lit to the sound of much appreciative applause, as the annual event was recognized once again as a big success.


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