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Boston Lights Up The Common For The Holiday Season

Tree Lighting Is Complete With Performers And Vendors

For The Heights

Published: Thursday, December 6, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

This past Thursday, Christmas invaded the Common as the 71st Annual Boston Common Tree Lighting Ceremony kicked off the holiday season. Food stalls, a Dunkin’ Donuts hot chocolate tent, a ‘Free Eggnog’ stand, and more provided nourishment for all throughout the night. Various tents from the sponsors lined the perimeter as crowds gathered around the stage to watch performances from various artists and acts including season five "American Idol" finalist Elliott Yamin, "The Voice" contestant James Massone, the Nova Scotia band Squid, the Boston Arts Academy, and the Grinch. Free balloon art was provided for those of younger ages as well.

As the hours and minutes ticked away, anticipation for the tree lighting heightened. Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino kicked off the pyrotechnic display that came along with the lighting of the 45-foot, imported Christmas tree. The origins of this ceremony are quite fascinating, as it originated as a gift of thanks from the people of Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1919. Two years prior, in Dec. 1917, two ships accidentally collided in a section of the Halifax Harbor. This was the largest accidental explosion in the world, and devastated the people of Halifax immensely - killing 2,000 and injuring 9,000 people. Almost instantly, the people of Boston responded through shipments of any aid they could give. This outreach and support touched the residents so deeply that they sent over the tree and thus began the tradition. But the Christmas celebration in the Commons didn’t begin until 1942, and the ceremony has grown exponentially since. With over 50,000 lights used to light more than 60 trees around the Commons, it has quickly become a ceremony popular among residents of the city and tourists, of those both young and old.

The job for those who aid in coordinating this landmark event is incredibly important, as one glitch can throw the entire plan off track and into chaos. Making sure that doesn’t happen and keeping the relations between all who are involved in helping the event happen is Jacquelyn Goddard. First coming into the Parks and Recreation Department just last year, she has been a Bostonian since 1993. Preparations for this event have started as early as Nov. 16, which marked the arrival of the tree, and as one can imagine, the setting of the tree in the stand took the entire day. Just a day prior to the celebration, the stage as well as the decorations and the fencing surrounding designated areas were set up. On the day of the tree lighting itself, vendors came with their booths to set up as early as 10a.m. These various vendors pay good money for the prime location spots as that is then used to fund things like the stage and pyrotechnics display at the conclusion of the ceremony.

Goddard’s role in all of this is to coordinate the logistics between those involved, including "internal players such as our maintenance staff and the Boston Park Rangers and external players such as Channel 5, which broadcasts the tree lighting live and groups giving us entertainment such as the Boston Ballet." Along with this responsibility, she has to make sure that minute but important details are handled, in order to avoid any kind of disruption, but also that all the larger details are ready to go, like "minute by minute, what our show will look like to the audience."

Despite the massive undertaking this event entails for her, Goddard stated that the event is a very rewarding one for her to take part in. The tradition previously mentioned warms her heart each year as she rereads the story of how Bostonians "dropped everything and sent supplies and medical personnel to help Halifax residents." Not only that, but meeting the delegation from Halifax as they arrive, seeing all the families and "thousands of people gathered for the event" is a "pleasure to see."

But with the wide variety of entertainment going on, picking a favorite moment was a hard one for Goddard, and a lot of those in attendance as well. When asked, she replied that her "favorite part of tonight is at the beginning when I am at the entrance to the event area. … I enjoy meeting people who I have spoken to on the phone, but never met in person."

When asking those in the crowd what their favorite part of the night was, many were in awe of the fireworks display at the end of the event, but the musical performances were also at the top. No matter the preference, it was an incredibly touching experience and one that should not be missed each year.

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