The coronavirus pandemic may have changed aspects of normal life for Cranbury residents, but it did not stop the township’s annual Christmas tree lighting, which has now kicked off the holiday season in Cranbury.
Adults and children, socially distanced and with face masks, gathered at Memorial Park on Dec. 6 to witness the annual tradition on South Main Street. The tree lighting and its festivities were scaled back in 2020 to adhere to social and safety protocols from state and national agencies.
There would only be the tree lighting, a quick Cranbury Fire Department fire truck drive by wave from Santa through Main Street, and a flag ceremony by the Cranbury Cub Scouts conducted during the evening.
“The flag ceremony was what the Cub Scouts were planning to do for our requirements anyway and when it looked like the township was not going to do the tree lighting the same way they had done in previous years, we raised our hands to combine the tree lighting with the flag ceremony, so the town could still have the annual tradition in a safe way,” said Mike Golisano, Cranbury Cub Scout Pack 52 den leader for the Wolves.
He added that the event was important for the township to do to be able to bring some light into people lives.
“I think it is important wherever we can to take the opportunity to celebrate and come together safely. This holiday season we have a couple of opportunities, we had the Christmas tree lighting and now will have the Hanukkah menorah lighting occurring on Dec. 10,” Golisano said. “It is important to take advantage of those opportunities, because people are not able to gather as much in this space and that is something innately human. It is important to keep people connected to one another when we have the opportunity to do it safely.”
In 2019, the tree lighting featured a winter festival by the Cranbury Girl Scouts, hot chocolate by the Woman’s Club of Cranbury, caroling with Dorothy “Mrs. K” Klotzbeacher, and a meeting with Santa, all of which were unable to occur in 2020.
“I think this year, more than other years, we have realized the importance of traditions throughout the year. It has been disorienting this year. Anything we can do to have some semblance of a ritual and celebration is super important,” Deputy Mayor Mike Ferrante said. “I think it is great that everyone in town has been so flexible this year. I think it was great that they were able to make this happen. We hope next year will be a return to normal.”
For Ferrante, he hopes that 2021 will a kinder and gentler year.
“I think the holiday season is always a time, no matter what your religion is, to pause and reflect and think about the year. I hope 2021 can be kinder and gentler year than 2020,” he said. “I think there is a lot of reflection we all can do at the end of the year and hope people find a way to connect with friends in a more creative way, but I think it is mostly about reflection and restoration in preparing for next year.”