The tree lighting in Athens Square Park in Astoria. (Photo: TNH/ Zafeiris Haitidis)
ASTORIA – A festive Tree Lighting Ceremony with a charming performance by carolers singing Christmas songs was held in Athens Square Park in Astoria on December 2.
The coordinator of the committee that undertook the project is Konstantinos Lambropoulos, who spoke about an effort that will symbolize hope and unity in these difficult times, to bring people back to the neighborhood, to help businesses, and raise the morale of the people. He said, “I am very excited. We brought the tree from Pennsylvania, it is the largest tree after the one in Rockefeller Center. I believe that it will bring the Greek Diaspora closer. Families will be happy, they will come here and the year will end with a smile.”
Lambropoulos also gave the welcoming remarks at the tree lighting and reminded everyone to maintain social distancing as a line formed of people eager to see the festive event. He pointed out that the tree will be lit until January 8, so there will be plenty of time for people to visit and take photos.
The tree was delivered and set up in the park on November 20. The tree lighting had been set for November 30 but inclement weather led to the rescheduling.
One of the sponsors of the initiative, Gus Antonopoulos said that it is a "joy and honor to be together here in the center of Astoria.”
The installation of the tree was attended by other sponsors and members of the committee, including Elias Fillas, Luca di Ciero, and Kyriakos Karabelas who acted as the event’s MC.
Lawyer Maria Markou said, “It is a project of love and hope. We know very well as Greeks that the Christmas tree in our homes when we decorate it unites us and a tree in the heart of Astoria will bring this unity, this togetherness, love and joy that we need.”
Markou also led a moment of silence for all those who lost their lives due to COVID-19 and for everything people have suffered during these difficult times.
His Grace Bishop Apostolos of Medeia offered his remarks and led a prayer. He noted that His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros could not attend since he was traveling to Boston, but sent his best wishes for the event.
Also among those present, George Delis, George Alexiou, and AHEPA District 6 Governor Lou Katsos who praised the effort and the organizers in his remarks.
The highlight of the event, besides the actual lighting of the impressive Christmas tree, was the performance of holiday classics by the talented artists of Cyprus New York (CNY) Productions, led by its President Phyto Stratis who noted that this was an opportunity to bring some holiday cheer to the community and bring people together in the spirit of the season during these times when many are separated from their loved ones.
The enchanting songs were accompanied by the delightful dancing of the performers, Louis Panayiotou, Ariadne Panagopoulou, Aggeliki Psoni, Demetris Michael, and Stratis as well, in cheerful red costumes. The audience, many of whom had not seen a live performance since March, applauded enthusiastically. Stratis, is also the Artistic & Music Director at the Pancyprian Choir of NY which will be screening their Christmas Concert on December 20 and 25 for the first time online, so the festive spirit of the season continues in spite of the challenges this year.
The Athens Square Park Tree Lighting Ceremony is also available on Youtube and Facebook for those who missed the live event.
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