OSWEGO, NY – The Port City officially lit up for the holidays Thursday night.
It was a rather mild early December evening. The temperature lingered near 40; hardly any patches of snow remained on the ground. A few showers did little to dampen the crowd’s enthusiasm.
In fact, some members of the crowd were so boisterous at times it was impossible to hear the speakers on stage.
A large crowd assembled in Civic Plaza to witness the city’s 26th annual Children’s Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony.
Oswego Mayor Tom Gillen officiated. He welcomed the crowd and thanked everyone involved in the event for making it a success again this year.
“Christmas is less about opening our presents than it is about opening our hearts,” the mayor said. “Let’s always remember that it is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air. Christmas is more than just a season – it is a feeling! It’s a special time of the year. If you don’t have Christmas in your hearts, you won’t have Christmas under your tree.”
Pastor Bruce Schrader offered a holiday prayer as the Nativity scene and Menorah were lit.
This year, the first day of Hanukkah began at sundown on Nov. 27. The holiday ended at sunset Thursday.
Rabbi Yossi Madvig said, “The message of Hanukkah, or any holiday for that matter, should not be for just that day or period. The message of Hanukkah of light and goodness and freedom is something that really should extend to every day of the year.”
The winners of the scholastic holiday essay/poetry writing contest were announced. Earning first place honors were: Cadie O’Brien, fourth grade, from Kingsford Park Elementary School; Hayley Bandala, fifth grade, from Kingsford Park Elementary; and Hannah Hayes, sixth grade, from the Oswego Community Christian School.
The winners received savings bonds from Pathfinder Bank.
Santa Claus made his arrival a few moments later aboard a city fire truck – his eight tiny reindeer rested up for their whirlwind worldwide Dec. 24 mission.
He asked the children to help him increase the size of his “nice” list and make the “naughty list as small as possible.”
“You’ve made me oh so proud children. My nice list is so big,” Santa told the children as he stretched his arms wide apart. “My naughty is this small,” he added holding his thumb and index finger about an inch apart.
They should be good each and every day, he told them. He asked them to stop fighting, share their toys and they should help out around the house.
“The vacuum cleaner doesn’t bite and you won’t get dishpan hands,” he said. “When you’re done with your toys, children, put them away. That’s not mom’s job.”
Santa told the children he might not be able to bring everything they asked for.
He needed to be sure he had enough gifts for every child in the world.
On Christmas morning, if they find they haven’t received everything they asked for, Santa told the children to smile and say thank you for the gifts they didn’t receive.
“For these are the gifts that (the children) shared with others so that they too may have a merry Christmas,” he said. “Sharing is the most precious gift of all.”
The mayor then led the crowd in the countdown and Makayla Walker, Santa’s helper, pressed the button that set the tree aglow in holiday splendor.
Santa invited the children to come into City Hall and visit with him.
The line of parents and their children snaked down the stairway and out into the plaza. It took more than an hour this year to queue all the children to Santa
The Jolly Old Elf paid close attention to every child as they visited with him and shared their Christmas wish lists.
As each youngster climbed (or was placed) on Santa’s lap, they all had specific ideas of what they wanted to find under their tree.
Santa said he made a mental note of each request and gave each child a candy cane before telling them he see them again, when they were sleeping, on Dec. 24.
Youngsters who visited Santa didn’t have to leave right away.
The Common Council Chambers were transformed into Elf Land with plenty of holiday activities for the youngsters.
Instrumental music was provided by students from Trinity Catholic School. And youngsters could also get a balloon animal created just for them.
Larry Rapshaw performed a variety of Christmas classics in the foyer of City Hall. Nearby, light holiday refreshments were served by the Oswego Lions Club.