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November 22, 2005 > Winter holidays are here. A season of tree lightings

Winter holidays are here. A season of tree lightings

by Linda Stone

Tri-City traditional tree lightings will begin with the Niles Parade and Tree Lighting on the Friday following Thanksgiving. In rapid succession, other tree lighting ceremonies will take place and the stage set for another holiday season. Although a common sight and event of the present day, the joyous season celebrating Christmas and the winter holidays was not always accompanied by the scents of and lights and decorations on evergreen trees.

The idea of Christmas trees started in the 16th century when devout Christians in Germany brought decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles. It is widely held that Martin Luther, the 16th century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. The idea came to him while walking home one winter evening, thinking of his next sermon, he was struck by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recreate the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room of his home and wired its branches with lighted candles.

In 19th century America, most people found Christmas trees an oddity. The first record of one being on display was in the 1830s by German settlers of Pennsylvania. Although the German settlements had community trees as early as 1747, most Americans saw them as pagan symbols. The New England Puritans saw Christmas as sacred and the pilgrams' second governor, William Bradford wrote that he tried hard to stamp out "pagan mockery" of the observance, penalizing any frivolity.

In 1659, the General Court of Massachusetts enacted a law making any observance of December 25 (other than a church service) a penal offense; people were fined for hanging decorations. That stern solemnity continued until the 19th century, when the influx of German and Irish immigrants undermined the Puritan legacy.

But in 1846, the popular royals, Queen Victoria and her German Prince, Albert, were sketched in the Illustrated London News standing with their children around a Christmas tree. Unlike the previous royal family, Victoria was very popular with her subjects, and what was done at court immediately became fashionable-not only in Britain, but with fashion-conscious East Coast American Society. The Christmas tree had arrived.

By the 1890s Christmas ornaments were arriving from Germany and Christmas tree popularity was on the rise around the U.S. It was noted that Europeans used small trees about four feet in height, while Americans liked their Christmas trees to reach from floor to ceiling.

The early 20th century saw Americans decorating their trees mainly with homemade ornaments, while the German-American sect continued to use apples, nuts, and marzipan cookies. Popcorn joined in after being dyed bright colors and interlaced with berries and nuts. Electricity brought about Christmas lights, making it possible for Christmas trees to glow for days on end. With this, Christmas trees began to appear in town squares across the country and having a Christmas tree in the home became an American tradition.

The tradition of a tree lighting ceremony in the nation's capital began in 1913 when 20,000 onlookers witnessed the lighting of the first Washington Community Christmas Tree. President Woodrow Wilson and Vice President Thomas Marshall officiated at that ceremony. This year's White House tree lighting ceremony will take place on Dec. 3.

In the Tri-City area many residents will gather around various tree lighting ceremonies, continuing the tradition that was started long ago. Many of the events are geared to raise funds for programs such as the Washington Hospital Healthcare Foundation's 10th annual Trees of Angels campaign which raises funds and increases awareness of hospice care. All proceeds will help ensure that individuals and families in our community are aware of and have access to quality and compassionate care end of life care. Special "Angel" ornaments will be available for purchase. Others will give the community a chance to come together to celebrate the holiday season, with visits from Santa, parades, caroling, crafts, all aimed at promoting families and community.

Below is a listing of tree lighting ceremonies in the Tri-City area:

Annual Niles Festival of Lights Parade and Holiday Tree Lighting
Friday, November 25
Tree Lighting 6 p.m.
Parade 6:30 p.m.
Main Street in Niles District, Fremont

Holidays in Centerville 5th annual Tree Lighting
Sunday, November 27
Tree lighting at 6 p.m.
Skating from 10 a.m. - 5 p.m., Santa & Mrs. Claus arrive by train at 3 p.m., Holiday craft booths from 1-5 p.m.
Centerville Train Station
37260 Fremont Blvd. and at the adjoining Bill Ball Plaza.

Trees of Angels Tree Lighting
Monday, November 28
6 p.m.
Entertainment by the San Jose/Irvington High School Chamber Choral, gifts for purchase and refreshments.
McDonald's Restaurant
42800 Mission Blvd. at 680, Fremont

Saturday, December 3
Mission San Jose Tree Lighting
6:20 p.m. - Tree Lighting & Santa Arrives
Live music at 5 p.m., Victorian strolling carolers, refreshments, bring a donation of canned goods for the Tri-City Volunteers Food Bank
Old School House Old School Business Center
Mission Blvd. & Cedar St. across from Ohlone College

Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
Friday, December 9
7 p.m.
Activities include free photos with Santa, music, raffle prizes, free refreshments and more.
Warm Springs Plaza
46500 Mission Blvd., next to Long's Drugs.

Irvington Monument Tree Lighting
Saturday, December 10
5 - 7 p.m.
Raffle, refreshments, caroling, fire truck followed by Santa on a sleigh, photos with Santa.
Irvington Monument
Corner of Bay St. and Fremont Blvd.

City of Newark's Annual Tree Lighting
Monday, December 5
6:15 - 7 p.m.
Caroling, refreshments, and special visits from Santa and the Newark Memorial Cougar Chords
Newark Civic Center, Carl Pierce Memorial Tree
37101 Newark Blvd., Newark

Trees of Angels Tree Lighting
Thursday, December 8
6 p.m.
Join Newark Mayor David Smith, members of the city council and families from throughout the community for a holiday musical performance by the Cougar Chords and a special visit from Santa.
Silliman Activity and Aquatic Center
6800 Mowry Ave., Newark

Union City
Trees of Angels Tree Lighting
Wednesday, November 30
5:30 p.m.
Entertainment, gifts for purchase, refreshments, Police Chief Randy Ulibarri and city staff will be in attendance.
Holiday Inn Express
31140 Alvarado-Niles Road, Union City

Light up the Season
Thursday, December 1
5:30 - 8:30 p.m.
Holiday Elf balloon sculptures, Hip Hop and Polynesian dancers, kiddie rides, food, crafts. dancing Christmas Trees and Laurie & RJ from the WB kids channel.
"B" Street between Mission and Foothill blvds. and City Hall rotunda, Hayward

18th Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony
Thursday, December 1
7 p.m.
Music, lighting of holiday trees, a story of Santa's Workshop, and light refreshments. Bring a toy or nonperishable food item to be donated, and receive a free photo with Santa. Santa photos are also available for a nominal fee.
Milpitas City Hall
455 E. Calaveras Blvd., Milpitas

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