Christmas tree lighting fosters holiday spirit throughout town

Citizens+gather+around+the+Christmas+tree+in+celebration+of+the+holiday+season.

Jack Lawrence

Citizens gather around the Christmas tree in celebration of the holiday season.

Lily Labella, Staff Writer

Upholding the 22-year-old tradition, the Port Washington Christmas Tree Committee put
together an event that was free and available for the entire community. Taking place on
Sunday, Dec. 8, the annual Christmas tree lighting was attended by an estimated 600-800
residents.
Due to last year’s celebration being canceled because of poor weather, there was an
enthusiastic turnout at the outdoor Blumenfeld Family park, next to the Landmark building at
4:30 p.m. in the chilling 42-degree weather.
Before a permanent tree was planted and stood tall in the park, the Port Washington
Christmas Tree Lighting Committee used to ask for donations towards purchasing a tree,
sometimes even receiving permission to cut down privately owned spruces from local
backyards. This changed once the current tree was planted near the entrance of the park in
2004 when it was only 8 feet tall.
Over the past 15 years, the tree has grown and requires more ornaments after each
holiday season due to damages to the original set of decorations and the continuous growth of
the tree.
The recent festivities were organized by The Port Washington Christmas Tree Lighting
Committee, led by Claudia Rudegeair, who was in coordination with local businesses to
organize this event. Businesses such as Hefferin’s Tree Service and Ayhan’s Shish-Kebab
Restaurant contributed to the fun nature of this event. Hefferin’s Tree Service volunteers their
time every year to decorate the 60-foot-tall evergreen tree with a cherry picker; decking out the

local Tanenbaum with two large boxes of lights, which is around 1,000 bulbs and 90 weather-
resistant ornaments.

Ayhan’s Shish-Kebab Restaurant provided hot chocolate and cookies. With additional
help from middle and high school volunteers, electric candles were also sold to help support the
tradition in future years.
As one of the evening’s hallmark events, the nativity kicked off with eleven shepherds
wandering about a barricaded area around the tree as the sun set behind the evergreen,
carrying wooden crooks and stuffed animal livestock that they brought around for small children
to pet.
Claudia Rudegeair then began the biblical narrative, announcing Mary and Joseph,
Gabriel along with her troop of angels, and three wise men dressed up in crowns and turbans.
The student choir from Saint Peter of Alcantara school, directed by John Young, sang hymns
between each introduction and were accompanied by a professional brass band.
To close this reenactment, all role-players made their way to a raised wooden creche set
up beside the tree and sang a final song. This event gathered residents from all over Port
Washington as displayed when a dozen girls from Girl Scout Troop 440 dressed up as angels in
white caps with glittering halos and took part in the live nativity.
“I’ve been attending this event for a long time. I even started out as an angel when I was
younger,” said sophomore Sydney Livingston.
Members of the Port Washington Fire Department, the largest and busiest volunteer fire
fighting force in the state, helped set up the mobile spotlights and barriers for the day of the
lighting. They were also invited to do the honor of switching on the dazzling display of yellow
Christmas lights connected to a light-up star at the very top of the tree. With the tree glowing
and sparkling, a Christmas carol singalong was conducted in anticipation of the arrival of Santa
Claus.
The man of the hour arrived in style aboard a fire truck with Mrs. Claus by his side.
Together, they took seats beneath the tree and invited all children in attendance, angels,
shepherds, and singers alike, to take a picture with them and receive a candy cane.
The ceremonial lighting of the tree at Blumenfeld was a very endearing and traditional
scene that many community members found enjoyable. In attendance was recently elected
Town Councilwoman Mariann Dalimonte and Congressman Tom Suozzi.
“I’m so happy to take part in this annual holiday tradition. It really brings the community
together and is a great opportunity for us to be grateful for what we have,” said Town Supervisor
Judi Bosworth.