Tree Lit On Green — With Political Edge

Brian Slattery PhotosBefore the countdown, and before the tree was lit, thousands gathered on the New Haven Green Thursday evening for carnival rides, singing and dancing — and political protests large and small — that all added up to a full evening of holiday festivities.

Dozens arrived before dark in anticipation of the city’s annual tree lighting, now a tradition more than 30 years old. With cool but pleasant weather prevailing (unlike last year, which was colder and much wetter), the carousel at the south end of the Green was full as the light began to fade.

Dark set in to a Green beginning to move with activity.

Near the bandstand, the city had set up several tents for kids to make arts and crafts projects. In another tent nearby, people lined up for free cocoa to keep their hands — and their insides — warm.

Toward Church Street, adults and kids alike delighted in feeding and petting llamas and pygmy goats.

On the bandstand, a parade of groups began to entertain the crowd. Early in the night saw the New Haven Ballet grace the stage with a selection from the Nutcracker (which runs at the Shubert Dec. 16 and 17; click here for tickets and more information).

The New Haven Free Public Library’s Readmobile saw a steady stream of visitors large and small.

As the time drew near for the tree-lighting itself, the whirligig next to the carousel was packed with delighted children.

Families nourished themselves with beverages from the Jitter Bus and food from the Cheese Truck, Shoreline Prime Meats and Deli truck, and others.

This year’s tree lighting got a little political, but even these statements were in keeping with the season. The bandstand saw an ode to Puerto Rico that filled the stage with people and drew raucous cheers from the crowd.

New Haven Stands with Standing Rock also staged a protest, asking the city of New Haven to follow Seattle’s lead and pull its accounts with Wells Fargo due to practices by the bank that the protestors called “dishonest” — its creating fake accounts for customers in a scandal that broke last year, its discriminatory practices against African American and Latino mortgage holders, and its investment in the Dakota Access Pipeline and for-profit detention centers. But even this serious protest was framed in festive terms, as New Haven Stands with Standing Rock members donned colorful elf caps, playfully rewrote the lyrics to traditional Christmas carols, and moved around the Green serenading the crowd and inviting people to sign a petition to send to Mayor Toni Harp.

Melinda Tuhus, a member of New Haven Stands with Standing Rock, said that the group had sent a first batch of 500 signatures to Harp’s office at the end of August. “We want to get up to 1,000,” she said. “We’ve got a few hundred to go.” They’d collected a couple dozen after an hour and found a generally receptive audience. “As soon as we mentioned Wells Fargo, they said, ‘I’ll sign,’” Tuhus said.

Behind her, to the tune of “O Tannenbaum,” fellow Standing Rock members sang, “Oh, Wells Fargo, oh, Wells Fargo / how greedy are your branches? / Let’s not forget last wintertime / your cops, your dogs / your pipelines.”

As 7 p.m. came and went, the crowd thickened. A group of teenagers burst into “Feliz Navidad.” A drone with red running lights rose over the Green. Shortly after 7:20, Harp took the stage to announce that the tree on the Green would be officially lit, reminding the now thousands gathered there that “all are welcome” in the city.

The crowd counted down like it was New Year’s Eve, and the tens of thousands of bulbs on the tree lit up. After a collective cheer, families and couples gathered around the tree.

Many huddled together to take pictures.

Others came close just to bask in its light, as another holiday season officially began in the Elm City, politics and all.

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posted by: THREEFIFTHS on December 1, 2017  8:46am

What does the Bible say about Christmas trees?Jeremiah 10:1-510 Hear ye the word which the Lord speaketh unto you, O house of Israel:

2 Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.

3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe.

4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.

5 They are upright as the palm tree, but speak not: they must needs be borne, because they cannot go. Be not afraid of them; for they cannot do evil, neither also is it in them to do good.It would be valuable to look into the origin of the Christmas tree and the celebration of Christmas on December 25 since neither are mentioned in the Bible.

posted by: wendy1 on December 1, 2017  8:48am

A nice event but you could have mentioned that across the street city alders met with overwhelmed and cash poor non-profits trying to discuss the major city problem of growing homeless numbers.  After 2 hours of useless babble the weary public was allowed to speak and that included myself and 3 brave and articulate homeless men.  The only press was a freshman from Yale Daily News who actually listened to the whole thing.

That evening I was accosted by 5 police officers for attempting to hang a banner that said New Haven needs housing.  Luckily i avoided arrest but one officer was upset because I forgot to call him by his rank, lieutenant….surprised by this “offending” gaff,  I kneeled before Lieutenant O’ Kneill and begged his forgiveness.  Officer Lopez was a witness along with the others and also the Yale freshman, Mr. Reedy.

In total 9 officers had to waste their time dealing with a 70 y.o. who was absolutely no threat to anybody and 2 of them had to stand through that whole meeting that night.  I thanked them in my speech for defending my first amendment rights.

posted by: SwampfoxII on December 1, 2017  9:10am

Is there anything the grievance peddlers won’t intrude on and politicize?  Even a Christmas tree lighting event, where people bring their kids to gather for fun, isn’t off-limits for these professional whiners.

posted by: jim1 on December 1, 2017  2:50pm

I went to the Green to see a cammal and got stuck with a lamma.  So I went to city hall as the update of the 10 year plan to end homeless in New Haven, {it was 2007 that John D. put it forward}..  There are still homeless people in the city.  YALE CORP. Could take some of there 27 Million and help out with this problem.  Look at all the Pr they would get.. Harvard and all the the other big schools would have to do the same..

10 years are up and there’s still lots of homeless in New Haven..

posted by: Perspective on December 1, 2017  3:20pm

You failed to mention the sharpest political edge of them all——not calling it a Christmas Tree lighting

posted by: SwampfoxII on December 2, 2017  3:27pm

@Perspective.  It sure looks like a Christmas tree to me.  When the Menorah gets lit, what are they gonna say?  “Candle stand goes up on the Green”?