Washington Square Tree Lighting Ceremony Tonight Wednesday, December 5th | First Tree in 1924 was Planted in Park — Bring Back Tradition?

by cathryn on December 5, 2012

Tree Pre-Lights

Tonight, December 5th, is the tree lighting ceremony at Washington Square 6 p.m. in front of the Arch. It is the 88th year of tree lighting ceremonies at the park! The ceremony doesn’t get as much as attention as Rockefeller Center but it is an older tradition (by 8 years).

In 1924, the first year of tree lighting ceremonies at Washington Square Park, a big movement existed calling for “wise use” and the idea of cutting down trees for Christmas was frowned upon, according to an article in the New York Times. It’s interesting with the large environment consciousness currently that this is not put into practice now — or even discussed. (I’m sure the Parks Department can find room in the park.)

30.8 Million trees were cut down for Christmas in 2011according to the University of Illinois.

In addition, that first year, the lyrics to the carols were projected onto the Arch! I love that idea. Another way to save trees versus printing songbooks and it gives everyone a way to participate together. It’s Festive.

From last year’s post:

“Researching Greenwich Village History”, an NYU site, recently uncovered the history of the first Washington Square Christmas tree. It turns out that the tree propped up in the front of the Arch at the first tree lighting ceremony in 1924 was later planted in the park. Words to the carols – to prompt the sing along – were projected onto the Arch!

The writer was not able to confirm that that tree is still at WSP or where it was planted which would be quite interesting to know. Apparently, “conservation” was a big consideration at that time, more so than 87 years later it appears. An article in the New York Times in 1925 expressed that, “Each year…a cry is raised that to have Christmas trees is to endanger our waning forest resources.” Perhaps they might consider planting the trees in the park now vs. the trees ending up in the chipper. The original tree, if it still existed in recent years, may have been chopped down in the Parks Department’s axing of so many trees via its redesign of Washington Square.

Info for tonight:

Wednesday, December 5th at 6 p.m.TREE LIGHTING CEREMONY AND CAROLING. The Rob Susman Brass Quartet performs. Santa Claus will be on hand. Songbooks are distributed.

 Next Caroling opportunity:
Christmas Eve, Monday, December 24th, 5 p.m. Caroling — The Rob Susman Brass Quartet again performs. Song books distributed. Holiday cheer.
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The tree lighting ceremony is presented by the Washington Square Association which provides the tree and songbooks.

More info on first year here.

Everything you ever wanted to know about Christmas trees here from the University of Illinois. (Seriously.)

 

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Peggy Friedman December 12, 2012 at 10:12 am

Thanks Cathryn, for such good coverage of the Wash. Sq. tree lighting, and discovering the wonderful link to the NYU page about the history of the Washington Square Association’s participation. Sorry I missed you on Dec. 5 — great photo of Scott Stringer.

Reply

cathryn December 13, 2012 at 7:14 am

Hi Peggy,

You’re welcome! Thanks for your comment. Yes, that NYU page has a lot of great information. Thanks for all your hard work and best wishes in the New Year!

Cathryn

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