Amidst the uproar over a tree at the State House being referred to as a “holiday tree,” Cranston ushered in the holiday season last night by lighting its own tree and there was no mistaking what the city wants to call it: a Christmas tree.
“It is what it is,” said Cranston Mayor Allan W. Fung shortly after the tree was lit up by hundreds of bright white lights.
“We call it a Christmas tree,” Fung said. “Forget what you call it — a holiday tree, a Christmas tree — it’s really about the kids and the best part for me is seeing the smiles on their faces. That’s the true meaning of Christmas.”
More than 100 adults and children crowded the lawn in front of City Hall for the tree lighting ceremony — the largest crowd in recent memory and it was the most people to come to a tree lighting since being elected mayor, Fung said.
In the unusually mild night, the crowd sipped hot cocoa and ate cookies as they listened to the young voices of the Garden City School Chorus and the BASICS Glee Club, who filled the air with Christmas music before the switch was flipped and the lights flicked on.
The crowd counted down to the big moment, and in an instant, the darkness was washed away by the bluish-white glow from the numerous lights woven through the limbs of the tall evergreen in front of City Hall and the smaller trees nearby on the lawn.
The crowd cheered and clapped and wandered around the tree, snapping pictures of loved ones. Children chased each other and husbands, wives, boyfriends and girlfriends smiled at each other, their eyes twinkling. Meanwhile Santa and Mrs. Claus made their way through the crowd. They had just hopped off a Cranston fire truck, which escorted them to the scene with flashing red lights and loud sirens.
“Merry Christmas,” Santa said as children swarmed around his legs.
Another crowd filtered around the mayor, who shook hands and received plenty of thanks and compliments for his decision to stick with tradition and use the word Christmas during the ceremony.
One resident, Sandra Pascone, said it was the first time she and her husband attended the ceremony.
“It was very nice,” she said. “I’ve lived here for 30-something years, my kids are raised and gone and we never came. So I said ‘we’re coming tonight.’”
The ceremony was made possible by dozens of city officials, Fung said, thanking each. The mayor’s office, the Police and Fire Departments, the Highway Department and the city’s electricians and maintenance staff all helped out to make it happen, Fung said. And folks from the Senior Center put together the cookies and hot drinks, Fung said.
“It’s a great celebration,” Fung said. “Since I’ve been in office I’ve tried to make sure to include the entire community and really make it a fun, festive atmosphere for the kids.”