The Christmas season officially began Friday night in Douglas, when residents gathered to sing along and light up a tree. The small courtyard of the Douglas Community United Methodist Church was filled with bodies and songs as more than 100 residents of Juneau gathered in an archway around the tree – its colored lights being the main source of light .
“It’s my favorite tradition,” said Allison Waid, who was there with her 6-month-old son Henry strapped to her chest. “It looks like the smaller town, kind of a Charlie Brown Christmas thing.”
The crowd was mostly families, and headbands with reindeer antlers were distributed to children and adults who gathered during a break in the rain and snow in Juneau.
The lighting of the Douglas tree is an annual tradition hosted by the Douglas 4th of July Parade committee in recognition of the two holidays that miners from the nearby Treadwell gold mine have been allowed during the life of the mine.
“During those two days the stamps would stop and the city would be calm,” said committee member Molly McCormick.
The Floyd Dryden Eagles, a choir made up of sixth graders and alumni from Floyd Dryden Middle School, led the crowd singing. They were conducted by Missouri music teacher Smyth. The Eagles mainly sang Christmas carols, but the group opened the ceremony with a song from Chief Seattle of the Suquamish Tribe, transcribed to music by Donna Otto. The song describes the beauty of the Earth, Smyth said in an email.
Songbooks were handed out, but many did not need them as the group made their way through familiar Christmas carols such as “Silent Night” and “Jingle Bell Rock”.
The 4th of July committee also hosts an annual Skate with Santa event at the nearby Treadwell Arena. Due to COVID-19 mitigation rules still in place, this year’s skating event was limited in capacity and required reservations. Two 45-minute skating sessions took place Friday night, both full, according to McCormick.
Prior to the lighting, United Methodist Church pastor Karen Dammann recognized the diverse beliefs of the community and invited those gathered to reflect on their own spiritual traditions.
“I invite you to bring light to the world,” said Dammann.
• Contact reporter Peter Segall at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.