Tree lighting in Oak Bluffs: Lights, cameras, holidays!
On Wednesday, Dec. 2, approximately 400 people met in Post Office Square in Oak Bluffs to celebrate the annual lighting of the town Christmas tree. Each year, residents of Oak Bluffs gather in the mall to share the festivities and welcome the beginning of the holiday season. Families and children waited for the dozens of small colorful lights that were wrapped around the evergreen to be lit.
Even before the switch was flipped, it was a joyful, seasonal sight. There were pets and children wearing felt reindeer antlers, on alert to catch the first glimpse of Santa on the Oak Bluffs fire engine that doubled as his sleigh for the night.
Jevon Rego and his son Nicholas have been attending the tree lighting for the past four years. They came to see the lights and participate in the festivities, but according to Mr. Rego, Santa Claus was the main attraction.
"It's one of the few events where all of the people of Oak Bluffs get together and come into town to celebrate without the craziness of the summer rush," he said.
The festivities began at 6:30, with caroling led by the Vineyard Classic Brass Ensemble. Just before 7 pm, as the melody of "Oh, Christmas Tree" floated over the celebrants, the countdown began. Everyone joined in, and the Christmas tree was lit.
This year, to much applause and cheers, Greg Coogan, chairman of town selectmen, gave the honor to his five-year-old grand-nephew Johnny Coogan.
Mr. Coogan has been attending the event for as long as he can remember. He says he considers it a perfect chance for people from all over the Island to gather and celebrate the holiday tradition.
Following the illumination, Mr. Coogan, in the company of many other parents, was tugged across Circuit Avenue by small hands tempted by Ryan Family Amusements game room. Children lined the sidewalk waiting the arrival of Santa Claus on the impressive fire truck.
"From a child's perspective, it is hard to tell which is more exciting, Santa or the big red fire engine," Mr. Coogan said. "The fact that Santa arrives riding in the fire engine makes it all the better."
Mr. Coogan said he had never seen Johnny's eyes grow so large as when, hot chocolate in hand, he saw Santa arrive in that red fire engine.
Inside the game room, children clustered around Santa. In true Island spirit, Santa collected donations for the Island Food Pantry. Next door at Seasons, adults danced to the music of Brian Weiland and The Stingrays.
Event director Renee Balter, a board member of the Oak Bluffs Association, which sponsors the event, thinks of it as a great community builder and a way for families and children to get into the holiday spirit.
"It's a wonderful giving sort of celebration, and it's the true meaning of Christmas," she said.
Amidst the happy chaos of the season, the Christmas tree lighting in Oak Bluffs reminded us that the holidays are for family, friends and for giving.
E. Conor Hagen is a freelance writer living in Edgartown.