Tompkins Square Park celebrates 30th anniversary tree lighting

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Tompkins Square Park celebrated its 30th tree lighting with live music.
Photo by Dean Moses

The East Village community came together Sunday evening in a holiday tradition that has lasted 30 years.

Although Tompkins Square Park’s Christmas tree had already been lit a few days prior, it didn’t stop local residents from celebrating the lighting, as they have done for three decades.

The tree used for the lighting was planted by Albert Fabozzi in memory of his late partner, Glen Barnett who passed away from AIDS. Since then, the memory of his beloved boyfriend has been kept alive each year with a festive spectacle that draws in families for a night of storytelling and song.

Children were enraptured by the holiday spirit. Photo by Dean Moses
Children gulped down hot chocolate. Photo by Dean Moses
Drinking a warm cup of hot chocolate to keep the cold at bay. Photo by Dean Moses

“It just blossomed,” Fabozzi told amNewYork Metro, explaining the journey from seedling to Christmas pilgrimage. “It started out as a way to reclaim the park. And we saw that it was very, very appealing every year it kept getting bigger, bigger and bigger. So, it became a tradition.”

Even decades later, Fabozzi becomes emotional when he thinks of his partner and the tree. But as much sorrow as it holds, it also encapsulates joy for the about 100 attendees who gathered in the park on Dec. 14. Huddled together children chugged hot chocolate and chomped on marshmallows as an ensemble of Christmas carolers bellowed seasonal classics.

Known as the Actors Theatre for the New City, the group spent over an hour entrancing onlookers with classic songs such as, “We wish you a Merry Christmas,” “Feliz Navidad,” and even recited “’Twas The Night Before Christmas.” Parents embraced their children while others snuggled with their pets as the night drew in. The performance commenced with the carolers wrapping their arms with the enraptured children and dancing in a circle singing, “Rock around the Christmas tree.”

The Mandel and Lyndon Trio performed live music at the event. Photo by Dean Moses
About a hundred individuals attended the Tompkins Square tree lighting. Photo by Dean Moses
Carolers sang “White Christmas.” Photo by Dean Moses

Then before attendees jointly counted down for the symbolic lighting, a free raffle was distributed with gift cards from the Gap.

For Fabozzi, who founded the event and even hired his own electrician to ensure the tree was lit, he says the holiday get-together is a big part of his life, one that he hopes will stay a tradition for as long as possible.

“It’s wonderful and emotional at the same time. And I hope that it will continue after I’m gone,” Fabozzi said.

Albert Fabozzi (left) was happy to see the event continue this year. Photo by Dean Moses
Reciting the poem ‘Twas the night before Christmas. Photo by Dean Moses
Attendees and carolers danced together as they sang, “Rocking around the Christmas tree.”Photo by Dean Moses