Hamburg area residents gathered for the Annual Community Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony held at the Fourth and Pine Street parking lot. Originally scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 1, rain moved the ceremony to Dec. 2 but even with a light sprinkling Sunday, organizers held the event as planned.

“I think we’ve been doing this maybe six or seven years… just something we love to do for our community and celebrate the Christmas season,” said Hamburg Borough Council President Josh Shaffer, worship pastor at The Bridge Church, Hamburg. “It’s hosted by a group of people; it’s not really anyone in particular.”

The Ceremony is a community event organized by the community. Those involved include Hamburg Borough Council, Hamburg Area School District staff and students, Hamburg Rotary Club, The Bridge Church and First Reformed Church.

Shaffer hopes attendees enjoy coming out to celebrate the Christmas season together to interact with the community in a positive way. Even if it’s raining, enjoy some Christmas music and celebrate the holiday season together. He hopes the event spreads light and hope.

“We live in a broken world in many ways and the Christmas season gives hope to many people,” said Shaffer.

Mark Caston, lead pastor at The Bridge Church, added that the Tree Lighting is a great event for which to be grateful.

“It’s all about community, it’s all centered around Christmas and Christ,” said Caston.

The event featured music by the Hamburg Middle School Ensemble Wings, The Bridge Church Choir, and the Muddy Creek Band.

“I think it’s a great event that draws the community together. It gets the kids out of the school performing in the community,” said Hamburg Middle School vocal music teacher Ben Watson, who brought the Middle School Ensemble, Wings, an after-school extracurricular group of about 20 students. “They like coming to it. It’s festive. It’s fun.”

The Hamburg Rotary Club provided free hot chocolate with marshmallows and the Hamburg Area High School National Honors Society provided free cookies.

“We always prepare the hot chocolate and serve it at the Tree Lighting Ceremony and have a good time doing that,” said Rotary member Jeanette Heckman, Borough Council Vice President. “We have a wonderful group of people helping, more than ever. We have 10 Rotarians here helping… I think it warms everybody up and the kids love it.”

Mayor George Holmes and Police Chief Tony Kuklinski conducted the official countdown for lighting the Christmas tree.

In a year of firsts, this is actually the second time Holmes participated in the Tree Lighting.

“I enjoy coming down here and being part of it, being part of the community, seeing the community participate in the festivities for the holidays,” said Holmes. “This is a great kick off.”

Holmes was not concerned that it was raining. There was also rain on King Frost Parade day and everyone had a good time, he said.

“We’ll have a great time tonight, as well,” said Holmes.

Police Chief Kuklinski said the Tree Lighting is a great event that brings the community together.

“It gives the community an opportunity to get together and see neighbors for a fun event,” said the Chief, and adding, “Merry Christmas!”

The Ceremony concluded with everyone singing carols together while the only light was from the community Christmas tree shining bright.

Lisa Mitchell is an editor for Berks-Mont Newspapers, covering news and events in the Northeast Berks County area.

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