SALT LAKE CITY — A huge crowd gathered Thursday night for a first ever tree-lighting ceremony at This is the Place Heritage Park. It was organized as an interfaith celebration of the start of the Christmas season.
Children processed through the park on its first annual parade of lanterns, "as a sign of the light of Christmas and the light that's in our hearts because of these wonderful days that so many people of faith, or different faiths, celebrate during this time of year," explained The Most Rev. John C. Wester, bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City.
"My sister went in the parade, and she went with all of her friends, and it was really fun seeing her," said Hailey Clegg, who attended the celebration.
The booths with food and items to buy were part of Christkindlmarkt, a German Christmas tradition dating back to the Middle Ages.
"(I) see some of the homemade things that people have done, and that was kind of intriguing and fun for me to see," said Trisa Teerlink, another celebration attendee.
Choirs of adults and children sang, as others reenacted the story of St. Martin, a former Roman soldier who gave his cloak to a beggar.
"It's an interfaith gathering, and this is a wonderful place, This is the Place Heritage Park, and it belongs to the whole community, and it belongs to the whole city," said Elder M. Russell Ballard, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"This is our first year with this program, and it looks to me like it's going to be a wonderful success," he said.
After the traditional singing of "O Christmas Tree," the branches of the park's special Christmas tree really did shine beautifully.
"What a great way to get the community together," said attendee Ryan Clegg, "and I guess, kick start the holiday season."
Even though the lighting of this tree this year was a first-ever event, people gathered at the park with the home that it is a tradition that will continue for years to come.