On this the first Sunday in December, thousands of Carnegie Hill residents gathered in front of the historic Brick Church to carry on a New York tradition. It is from this location, amid carols and good cheer, that Park Avenue's Christmas lights are turned on each year.
Children teetered on parental shoulders as young and old huddled in the chilly evening air. A program with traditional carols numbered from one to twelve was distributed to many attendees. At times all would sing, at others women or men were challenged to take the lead. The voices were as varied as the diverse crowd. Some sang beautifully while others, well this is the season for hope. Some of those residents not willing to test the cold air looked down from windows in towering Park Avenue apartment buildings overlooking the scene.
The first Park Avenue tree lighting took place in 1945 at a time when this country was recovering from World War II. Today our country is at war in Afghanistan and Iraq. The church pastor spoke of those currently stationed on the war front as well as the memory of those who have lost their lives in past wars. A trumpeter played "Taps" for those tens of thousands of brave American soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen who gave their lives in service of this country in the time since the ceremony first took place.
"Let there be light!" were the magical words spoken by the pastor. The crowd gasped with approval as the lights on the pine trees located in the center of Park Avenue's median illuminated. Gradually, the remaining Park Avenue trees located to the north and south illuminated. With that the crowd returned to a rousing rendition of "Jingle Bells."
It is times like this that make the neighborhoods of New York so special, especially this time of year.