Oh Christmas tree!
Weeks after Our Lady of Perpetual Help lit up its Christmas tree, local organization Friends of Sunset Park lit up its own as it held its annual Sunset Park Tree Lighting and Winter Solstice Celebration on Wednesday, December 21.
The lighting, which took place towards the meadow inside Sunset Park at 43rd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues featured local youngsters singing classic holiday tunes such as “Jingle Bells” and “Feliz Navidad.”
“These are the traditions that keep the neighborhood together,” said David Estrada, chief of staff for Councilmember Carlos Menchaca. “People like Maria [Roca} and her group, Friends of Sunset Park, they bind a neighborhood over time and it’s a beautiful event. We need these voices and events, such as the lights on Fifth Avenue, and this tree.”
Despite an intimate turnout, Estrada stressed the significance of the event. “It’s funny some people overlook these events, but if it didn’t happen, people would really miss it,” he said.
It was all smiles for the kids that did attend. After the caroling, they helped count down to the lighting and decorate it with ornaments provided by the group.
Maria Roca, the founder of the group and organizer of the event, stated than it’s about more than celebrating the Christmas season and receiving presents. “This means building community and bringing people together,” she said. “Even if they don’t know each other, or haven’t seen each other in a while, they will reconnect.”
Although Roca and company couldn’t hold the lighting last year due to an issue with the power connection, the tradition has been going on for six years.
Roca feels the evening is a celebration of how far both the park and neighborhood have come over the years.” We have this beautiful park which so many people worked so hard to restore and it’s a daily job to do that,” she said. “We should celebrate ourselves and our accomplishments in this neighborhood, which are many, and have the light to look towards, to look forward to the new year, and feel renewed and restored.”