Although the temperature was hovering near freezing, the dozens who gathered Saturday evening in a schoolyard in Port Richmond were merry and bright.
School staff, students, neighbors and sponsors sang Christmas hymns as they celebrated the inaugural St. George School Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony.
Students dressed as a snowman and Christmas tree mingled with the crowd and handed out candy canes, and cups of complimentary hot cocoa were poured prior to the countdown of the tree lighting at 7 p.m.
And, while the event was a joyous celebration of the Christmas season, it was also bittersweet.
Monsignor Joseph Anderlonis, former pastor at St. George parish for more than three decades, passed away this week.
Principal Dr. Joanne H. Walls and pastor Rev. James Olson both offered words of remembrance.
“This tree symbolizes life and growth, and let us remember the life of Monsignor Anderlonis,” Wall said. “We light [the tree] in honor of Jesus, who is the light of the world.”
The event was the brainchild of Ryan Keller, vice president of the board of limited jurisdiction, who was joined in his efforts by other board members, school staff and Port Richmond residents, including Anne Paul Pace, whose job was to find the tree.
“There are a lot of tree lightings throughout the Northeast and these neighborhoods, and we and PROPAC realized there wasn’t one in their particular area of Port Richmond.”
Port Richmond on Patrol and Civic (PROPAC) was one of the event sponsors, along with Lowe’s of Aramingo, Councilman Mark Squilla, Bean 2 Bean Coffee Company, Jon Mendy’s Realtor and Premier Physical Therapy.
The school hosted an ornament-decorating event on Saturday, Nov. 30.
For $5, families at the school and the community were invited to make ornaments that were hung on the tree for the lighting.
Proceeds benefit the school.
The Christmas tree at St. George, 2700 E. Venango St., will be lit every night until Christmas.