Washington Square Christmas tree lighting ceremony celebrates its 88th year

Speaking to nearly 200 people ranging from six months old to 60 years old on a brisk Wednesday night, Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer had one simple question.

“Are the kids ready for the countdown?” Stringer asked the crowd.

After ex

cited and eager voices peppered the park, the 45-foot Washington Square Park Christmas tree drew the gaze of surrounding bystanders as the multicolored lights lit up. Brought down by the the Washington Square Association and shipped from Vermont, the tree was a celebration of a n 88 year tradition.

“It’s the first time I’ve been [to the event],” said Collin Laport, a freshman in the NYU Liberal Studies Program. “It’s getting pretty festive in New York.”

At it’s 88th anniversary, the Washington Square Park tree-lighting ceremony older than the similar Rockefeller Center tradition by eight years.

“It started as a neighborly expression,” explained Washington Square Association board member Peggy Friedman. “When it’s lit up, you can see it right down Fifth Avenue.”

WSA board members were passing out songbooks printed by the Washington Square Hotel at the event, which started at 6 p.m. A few moments after the lights were turned on, the caroling began with “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.”

The major attraction for children is Santa Claus, who attends the event each year. This year Santa is played alternately by Robert Belpasso and his assistant is Hayley Zyndorf, both of whom are top-notch NYU students, according to Sumner.

Two-year-old Augustus was yelling with joy at the prospect of seeing Santa, but it turns out he was not the only one looking forward to seeing the man with the white beard.

“I’m going to sit on [Santa’s] lap,” said Ernie Garcia, a banker in New York City. “But I may break it in half.”

For anyone looking to take part in more Christmas spirit in Washington Square Park, a repeat of this event will be held on Dec. 24, 2012 at 5 p.m.

Pia Brar is a staff writer. Email her at cstate@nyunews.com.

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