Santa Claus comes to Jericho CenterBy Phyl Newbeck For The Essex Reporter
Sometimes even Santa Claus needs some variety in his life. That’s why every year he takes a break from supervising toy making to journey down to Jericho to light the Christmas tree on the town green. This year, Santa will make the trek on Dec. 8, trading in his sleigh for the opportunity to be chauffeured to the green on a Kubota tractor.
The official Christmas tree was planted four decades ago in memory of a Jericho Center forester named Luther Zai who died in a house fire when he was 33 years old. The tree was first lit in 1970 and over the years, a variety of groups have been in charge of holiday festivities including the Ladies Social Service Club of Jericho and the Desso family who owned the general store on the green for many years. Until 2003, CVPS took care of the electric costs but now community members foot the bill, aided by contributions put in green jars in retail establishments all over town. Every year, a dedicated group of volunteers head out to the tree in November to ensure the lights are working and the strings are intact. A local chimney sweep provides a lift so they can make sure the top of the tree is in good working order.
The lighting of the tree has become a fun-filled afternoon and evening for kids of all ages and this year is no different. The event will start with an open house at the Jericho Town Library at 3:30 p.m. There will be tables for arts and crafts projects, as well as cookies and other refreshments. There will also be entertainment. Downstairs, a CD player will provide some holiday cheer but upstairs, local musician Derek Burkins will play holiday music for the kids. Tracey Campbell Pearson will read from her popular children’s books and Elizabeth Bernstein will read holiday stories.
Bernstein is part of a weekly music and story hour at the library with Burkins on Wednesday mornings but is more than happy to extend her volunteer work for this event. “Reading stories is my favorite trick in the world,” she said. Although the main focus of the event is the lighting of the tree, Bernstein has a different take on the festivities. “It’s cold and dark,” she said “so this lets us get together to read stories, drink cider, and turn on some lights. It’s an opportunity to cheer each other and help us get through the winter.” Bernstein said the stories will be for all ages and denominations.
Burkins has been playing his guitar at the event for the last three years, alternating between children’s music and holiday songs. “It’s something I love to do because it’s a great community gathering,” he said. “It’s fun to play music that people can sing along to.”
Barb Adams, a town library trustee, has been organizing the festivities since 2007. She said part of the goal of the event is to bring more people into the library, while spreading holiday cheer. Her husband picks up Santa Claus “at an undisclosed location” and takes him to the Green where he lights the tree at 5 p.m. Adams said the celebration brings out as many as 75 children and adults for both the indoor and outdoor events. “I love the sense of community that it brings,” she said. “I think it’s really fun for everybody. I love doing things for this community. It’s such a great place to live.”