Northern Hospital of Surry County kicked off the holiday season with a tree-lighting event on Tuesday.
Christmas ‘tis the season to be jolly, but it is also the season to feel nostalgic. And that’s what inspired an old tradition to be revived.
Back in the early 1980s, the hospital auxiliary started a program called Love Light Tree. People or businesses could sponsor each tiny bulb on a Christmas tree, with proceeds helping the Lifeline program. The tall tree was placed on the roof of the hospital, visible all the way down to U.S. 52.
“I can remember being a young child and having my parents to drive me by the hospital multiple times a night just to see the tree on top of the building because I had never seen anything like it,” said Tina Beasley, volunteer coordinator at Northern Hospital.
There was a woman who volunteered at the hospital back in the 1980s and is now retired, said Beasley. Her son still works there, and one day he brought in a scrapbook, filled with photos and newspaper clippings from the tree lighting back in the day. Seeing those newspaper clippings brought back those childhood memories for Beasley and many others who saw the scrapbook.
The hospital staff wanted to bring back the tree, not as a fund-raiser, but just to resurrect a Christmas tradition.
“To be a light to our community,” said Ashly Lancaster, hospital marketing and communications. “In 1983, the Love Light Tree was described by the auxiliary in this way: ‘Perched high atop the Northern Surry Hospital, the Christmas Love Light Tree will symbolize the true spirit of Christmas.’”
The chorus group from Meadowview Middle School entertained guests with carols before and during the ceremony Tuesday. Santa and Mrs. Claus welcomed guests before Ned Hill, hospital president and CEO, addressed the group.
The annual tree-lighting ceremony began with President Calvin Coolidge in 1923, noted Hill. He believed that something as simple as a Christmas tree can give hope to residents.
He read an article from a man whose child was born during the night after the falling of the twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001. The pending father watched television footage of the disaster and recalled vividly the scenes of destruction when a massive forest fire destroyed nearly 800,000 acres in Yellowstone National Park in 1988.
Within a few years of the fire, wildflowers reappeared throughout the park, and new trees were growing back. Now, about the same amount of time has elapsed since 9/11 as there was between the forest fire and the 2001 attacks. New York, too, has been rebuilt and is thriving.
Despite all of the things that may frighten or worry people, Hill said he hoped that people can express their gratitude for all that is going right in their lives, too. While a Christmas tree is just one small decoration, he believes it can be a symbol of people’s hope during the Christmas season.
Before the lights were turned on, Beasley gave thanks to the hospital maintenance staff, who put in all the work getting a tree up on the roof, stable and well lit.
While the ceremony began indoors to stay out of the rain, guests and hospital staff moved outside to witness the lighting as the middle school chorus sang “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”
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