Twice the holiday light and cheer in Sunset Park

December 9, 2013 Heather Chin
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In what has become a much-anticipated neighborhood tradition, the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony in front of the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (OLPH) on Fifth Avenue at 60th Street drew over 500 people—around 350 of them children—to take a picture with Santa Claus, sing together, watch magic happen, open goody bags, and have an all-around great time with family and friends.

Sunset Park's Christmas holiday tree, all lit up, outside the Basilica of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

From 4 to 6 p.m., children from several local school and after-school groups sang and danced to holiday songs. Featured performers included the Brooklyn Chinese American Association Youth Chorus, St. Agatha’s School Chorus, OLPH School Chorus, OLPH Twirlers and Regina Opera Company.

Then at 6 p.m., the giant tree, decorated with red ribbons and strings of golden light, was lit. It joined a nativity scene set in front of the church in welcoming the Christmas and holiday season to the community.

The tree will be up through the end of the year.

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The event was hosted by the Sunset Park Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District (SPBID), which has been holding the event every year since 1999. This year, SPBID Executive Director Renee Giordano realized just how special the event had become for so many of the revelers and residents.

“Children remembered Santa and were really excited to see him again [while] adults said this was something they look forward to,” said Giordano. “I had never realized that we have children, adults and families who are coming back every year as their way of ringing in the holidays in Sunset Park. It’s become a real tradition.

“It really highlighted the kind of things that we like to do, which is bringing together the community,” Giordano added. “We have so many different nationalities and immigrants and this is their introduction to America and the traditions we have here.”

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