Ellie Park, Photography Editor

More than 200 children, parents and grandparents flooded the New Haven Green in anticipation of the 110th annual Tree Lighting ceremony last Thursday. 

A holiday roar emerged from the crowd as locals marveled at the rainbow lights display and youth choral singing.

“I loved the tree lighting. It was extremely festive,” said Avery Misner ’27. “The best part wasn’t even the lighting, but everyone being together to kick off the holiday season.”

A 55-foot Norwegian spruce, donated by Kelly Drapeau and Kami, Carl and Kaylie Zemkie, towered over the crowd, ushering in the holiday season.

Santa Claus roamed through the streets and greeted eager children with a smile. He took photos with attendees — young and old — celebrating the beginning of the Christmas season.

“It reminded me of my Christmas tree back home,” said Sofia Arbelaez ’27. “Instead of placing ornaments on the tree with my family, I celebrated the light ceremony with my closest friends.”

The Small Business Holiday Village accompanied the tree lighting, featuring live performances, amusement rides and family activities over Thursday, Friday and Saturday afternoons. The performers were from Hill Central Music Academy, Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School Instrumental Ensemble, John S. Martinez School, Alliance Children’s Theater, New Haven’s Poet Laureate Sharmont “Influence” Little and Monk Center for Academic Enrichment and Performing Arts.

On Thursday night, hundreds of New Haveners gathered at the Tree Lighting for a “No Festivities Until Palestine Is Free” vigil to mourn Palestinians killed in Gaza amid the Israel-Hamas war and to stand in solidarity with those impacted by the violence.

At the festival, The Touch A Truck, sponsored by Toys for Tots, collected toy and book donations. The New Haven Free Public Library Bookmobile allowed patrons to check out a book and indulge in the holiday spirit through classic reads. 

Local vendors sold their goods until 9 p.m. as hundreds of eager shoppers streamed through the Green. 

“It was beautiful and reminded me of home. It was a truly fantastic experience,” said Sofia Prieto Black ’27. “The food trucks and kettle corn created a warm and wholesome atmosphere. I really loved it.”

The annual ceremony has a long history in the New Haven community. In 1913, the New Haven Civic Federation organized the first New Haven Tree Lighting ceremony to support poverty-stricken families in New Haven, according to Colin Caplan, a New Haven author and historian. 

On Christmas Eve, Mayor Frank Rice adorned multicolored lighting on an evergreen tree. Caplan wrote that the Second Company Governor’s Foot Guard Musicians played Christmas carols as the lights glimmered on the large evergreen.

“The ideals of these original civic-minded city leaders for an inclusive community celebration bringing light and warmth to the neediest is a tradition that helps renew bonds and begin new ones for New Haveners for years to follow,” wrote Caplan.

The 110th New Haven Tree Lighting occurred on Thursday, Nov. 30 from 5 to 7:30 p.m.