Hundreds of residents gathered on the Rockville Centre Village Green on Dec. 6 for the annual Christmas Tree Lighting. Some huddled together, waiting for the event to begin, their breath visible in the cold air as they sipped hot chocolate provided by Busco’s Gourmet Kitchen and the Vineyard Church. Children tossed footballs, played tag and waved colored light sabers as they waited.
At 7:30 p.m., Mayor Francis Murray introduced Monsignor William Koenig, who gave the invocation. Then Parks and Recreation Superintendent Anthony Brunetta called on the South Side High School pep band and chorus to begin the festivities with renditions of “Joy to the World” and “Deck the Halls.”
Murray acknowledged the perseverance of the village in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, and noted how well that theme fit the holiday season. “After the recent storm devastation in our area, it is especially joyous to once again welcome in this season of hope, giving and peace on Earth,” he said. “Your unselfish acts of kindness to your fellow man and surrounding communities have not gone unnoticed. This love and affection you have shown others is truly what Rockville Centre residents are made of.”
Trustee Kevin Glynn thanked the crowd for coming out, and noted that State Sen. Dean Skelos, Assemblyman Brian Curran and County Legislators Joseph Scannell and Francis Becker were also in attendance.
The Rev. Jeff Laustsen of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church offered a blessing for the holiday season. “Let us pause a moment and offer our prayers of thanksgiving,” he said. “Lord, we have lived through a time when so many people have suffered in darkness that was inflicted on their homes and lives in the aftermath of the hurricane. We pray that the lights that we light on this evening will continue to bring them hope and the promise that there is no darkness that is as strong as the light we will continue to share.”
The high school musicians performed a few more songs, and then Murray’s grandchildren, Shannon and Sean Kelly, flipped the switch, illuminating approximately 2,000 lights on the 63-foot-tall tree, which had been transplanted from the Recreation Center.
Santa Claus rode around the green (with the help of the village Fire Department), as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Frosty the Snowman danced on stage.
The pep band ended the festivities with a performance of “God Bless America,” and afterward the Phillips House served cider and desserts.