Photos and story by Danielle S. Tepper.
Santa’s making his rounds! Ol’ St. Nick stopped by Nazareth Thursday, Dec. 5 for the annual tree lighting. The dreary mist and chilly weather didn’t keep the town residents from gathering in the circle to enjoy hot chocolate courtesy of Moravian Church and Christmas carols courtesy of the Lehigh Valley Idols.
The tree lighting has been a tradition for as far back as Tina Smith, President of the Nazareth Chamber, can remember. “It’s well before my time,” she said. “It’s into multi-generations now. Parents that came as kids are now bringing their children.” The event has been occurring easily 30 years or longer, in her estimation.
For that length of time, it has stayed with its tried-and-true formula: elected officials welcome the residents, a local pastor recites a prayer, the high school band plays, and once the lights are lit, Santa makes his way in on a fire truck.
This year was no different. Well, perhaps with one slight change. While the lights are normally lit by a local child, this year that honor went to Nazareth’s No. 1 fan, Andy Weaver. Although Weaver, 28, suffers from cerebral palsy, he is rarely seen without a smile on his face. He tears tickets at Nazareth sporting events and writes for local news outlets (including The Home News) about the district teams.
“He’s my buddy,” said Smith. “I thought, what a cool way to honor Andy. He’s older, but everyone loves him.”
Smith got in touch with the school district—it just so happens that this year’s Santa is also the new athletic director. They worked together to get a poster board made that read, “Nazareth Loves the Weave,” which everyone signed, along with a team jacket that read the same.
“So we had some fun extra tokens to present,” said Smith, smiling.
After Weaver flipped the switch, the circle was lit with colorful trees, decorated with a large nativity scene, and ready for December 25.
Santa’s arrival prompted an endless line of impatient kids waiting for their turn to sit on his lap and tell him what they want for Christmas. Each child received a gift and candy from Mrs. Claus before returning to their warm homes.
“It’s fun, the community loves it,” said Smith. “We freeze, but we generally get around 800 people every year. It’s a nice thing for the town and a nice way to kick off the holiday spirit.”