City to hold first-ever holiday tree-lighting Friday evening

Michael Ball/Staff
On Friday at 5:30pm, Berkeley will host it's first ever "Holiday Tree Lighting." Businesses, as well as the city, have begun to decorate the downtown Berkeley area with holiday lights.

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The city will hold its first Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony at the Downtown Berkeley BART Plaza Friday as part of the annual holiday decorations.

The ceremony will run for an hour starting at 5:30 p.m., with special attendees like Santa making an appearance. Mayor Tom Bates will have the honor of plugging in the tree, which is a steel pole decorated with lights.

“We wanted to bring people here and reintroduce them to Downtown Berkeley during the holidays,” said Shifra de Benedictis-Kessner, program assistant for the Downtown Berkeley Association.

De Benedictis-Kessner said that though the forecast is slated for rain, the weather will not be a problem because enough tents have been procured to cover everyone during the ceremony. She anticipated about 200 people coming to the ceremony but said the rain might diminish the estimated number.

“This is going on, rain or shine,” she said.

As an incentive, de Benedictis-Kessner said, there will be cookies from PIQ Bakery and Cafe and hot chocolate from Almare Gelato.

The Cal Jazz Choir will perform about 10 songs for the occasion, with a variety of both Christmas songs and jazz songs. The two featured songs that the group will perform will be “The Christmas Song” and “Jamaican Noel.”

“We are really excited about this event,” said Cal Jazz Choir business manager Esteban Carabajal. “We think that it’s a great opportunity to bring in the holidays.”

De Benedictis-Kessner, who has been planning the ceremony since July, said the ceremony was not designed with the intention of highlighting Christmas or any religion in particular.

“It’s just going to be fun lights with a good community feel,” de Benedictis-Kessner said. “Winter is a great time for people to come together.”

According to de Benedictis-Kessner, the lights will be up until January.

“Depending on the success, we would like to do this every year,” she said.

Contact Shannon Carroll at [email protected].