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The Tongva Times

The Tongva Times

The Tongva Times

Holiday celebration at San Gabriel Tree Lighting

By Kaylee Chan | Editor in Chief

Yilin Yao | Tongva Times
FESTIVE GLOW The tree at San Gabriel Plaza Park lights up under the night sky.

   On Dec. 7, the 47th Annual San Gabriel Tree Lighting, sponsored by the San Gabriel Women’s Foundation, took place at Plaza Park from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Families gathered at the park to witness the lighting of the pine tree to celebrate the holiday season.

   The lighting was preceded by musical performances from Roosevelt Elementary School and Arcadia High School, and a dance performance from the hula group, Nani Echoes O’ Hawai’i. The event also included a visit from Santa Claus on a fire truck, courtesy of the San Gabriel Fire Department and the San Gabriel Police Department.

   Roosevelt’s fourth and fifth grade orchestra and concert band performed several pieces, such as a medley including “March of the Nutcracker” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” The orchestra and band are a part of Roosevelt’s Music Immersion Experience program, which provides music education to those in elementary school.

   “I felt like [the orchestra and band] did fantastic,” said San Gabriel Unified School District Visual and Performing Arts Program Administrator Samantha Theisen. “It’s been two years since they’ve performed, which has been really hard on them, since performance is one of the most important parts of playing music. In a way, this is a celebration of coming back.”

   The intermediate and advanced classes of Nani Echoes O’ Hawai’i, a dance group affiliated with the San Gabriel Community Recreation Center, performed routines to Hawaiian-themed Christmas songs such as “Mele Kalikimaka” and “Christmas Lu’au.” They wore traditional Hawaiian skirts and headwear with leaves and lace.

   Dancer Emi Naito, Gabrielino High School sophomore, looked forward to the performance. 

   “I am pretty excited because I really really love Christmas, so this is probably my favorite event to do,” stated Naito. “I think hula is just a really fun event in general because even if you’re not a skilled dancer, as long as you’re having fun and you’re bending your knees then you got it.”

   The Arcadia High School Choir also sang Christmas songs such as “Silent Night” and “Jingle Bells.”

   After a grand entrance from a fire truck escorted by motorcycles, Santa Claus took pictures with families. Kids were invited to write letters to him and submit them in a mailbox at the park.

   The lighting also included an activity where attendees could make ornaments out of tinfoil and candy canes to hang on the fence around the tree.

   Free churros, hot chocolate, and bread from El Pavo Bakery were available, as well as meals from the Kogi BBQ food truck.

   Many people helped run the event, including San Gabriel Parks and Recreation employee Hailey Villalobos, who handed out bread during the Tree Lighting. It was her third time attending the Lighting.

   “I think it’s the best thing ever,” said Villalobos. “It’s so sweet. I live in a city nearby and when events take place there, everything costs so much. But here, there’s free hot chocolate, free churros, free crafts… everyone is so giving.”

   In between performances, statements were given by Community Services Director Rebecca Perez, Theisen, and Mayor of San Gabriel, Chin Ho Liao, highlighting the city figures and community groups involved. Liao led the countdown to the lighting of the tree lights, sporting a Michael Jackson-inspired shiny glove.

   “We’ve been doing this for forty-five years, it’s part of our tradition. Every first Tuesday of December is the Tree Lighting,” stated Mayor Liao. “I am very grateful for all the attendees that come to perform, as well as the community services that make this possible.”

   While the event has taken place for nearly half a century, the same pine tree has not been used every year. The original tree was replaced by another after it was damaged in a windstorm ten years ago.

   However, community members believe that has not dampened the holiday spirit the lighting tradition brings.

  “[The tree] is still strong and beautiful,” said Liao.

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Holiday celebration at San Gabriel Tree Lighting