Beach 116th is looking a little brighter. On Monday, December 13, the community gathered around the tree near the firehouse to see this tradition, much loved by the late Lew Simon, go on.
After last year’s tree lighting ceremony was cancelled due to Covid, the festivities returned this year with a small-scale lighting made possible by the efforts of Liz Hanna and Assemblywoman Stacey Pheffer Amato. The event was complete with giveaways including cookies, chocolate, hot chocolate, headbands, bibles and more.
Pheffer Amato explained why it was important to carry on this tradition. “Part of the tradition of lighting the tree was part of our good friend Lew Simon’s heart. It was something he always believed in and wanted to do every year and even when we didn’t want to do it, he made us do it. And it’s part of what tradition is. We love and appreciate it. Lew passed on and, in his memory, we want to keep a lot of our traditions alive,” Pheffer Amato said.
Hanna reiterated that they were carrying on this tradition for Lew. As their first year without him, the ceremony looked a little different than in past years, but she promised it would continue to grow. “This is a little different, it’s a little smaller,” she said. “We’ll try to work out more of the details next year.” Then she thanked all who helped pull the pieces together for this year’s lighting including Pheffer Amato. She also gave a special thanks to Pastor Garry Patrylo whose House on the Rock Church led Christmas carols throughout the ceremony, and she mentioned the many wonderful things they do for the community. Richie Keane and Pepe Cuzzone were thanked for putting the lights on the tree and she also thanked the Knights of Columbus for building a beautiful new nativity scene that was installed in front of the tree ahead of the lighting. The tree was donated by Mazzone Hardware and Marilyn Miley was hard at work dishing out candy and cookies at the ceremony.
Pastor Garry reminded folks of the true meaning behind Christmas and pointed out the message on the new nativity scene. “It says Christmas begins with Christ. It would be really sad to have all these presents and festivities and all of these lights and food and somehow forget who the birthday boy is. Too often we do that in the Christmas season, so I want to remind you Jesus is the reason for the season and Christmas begins with Christ and thank you so much to the Knights of Columbus for bringing this nativity here and reminding us of this,” he said.
With a countdown from 10, kids in attendance were invited to plug in the tree and light it up for the season. Before ending, Pheffer Amato said, “In memory of our dear friend Lew Simon, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a very happy new year.”
By Katie McFadden
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