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LETTER: World laughs with Orillia over 'silly' tree lighting

'In a weird way this year’s bizarre tree-lighting ceremony runs closer to the spirit of ancient winter rites,' says letter writer
A different approach was taken to decorating the Christmas tree at the Orillia Opera House this year.

BradfordToday and InnisfilToday welcome letters to the editor at [email protected] or via our website. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter is in response to the Christmas tree lighting at the Orillia Opera House.

Give Orillia credit for originality.

While countless cities and towns are marking the Christmas season by decking prominent evergreens in glittering hoop skirts of light, Orillia went for a non-traditional effect: Tree struck by lightning.

And sure enough, the crowd gathered in front of the opera house for the countdown was shocked to see a giant light sabre appear where they had expected to see an expansive, fully lit tree.

“What the hell?” captured the overall sentiment.

A second spontaneous countdown failed to bring about the full and proper lighting of the 50-year-old blue spruce all had come to see.

Only the trunk of the tree had been trussed in strings of white lights. About as festive as a pillar of salt. Just silly.

Bad news travels fast and in no time Orillia and its comical Christmas trunk were being mocked in the media and on late-night TV.

There is a backstory which is both sad and ironic.

It turns out the old tree has suffered over time bearing the weight of lights, left strung in the branches all year long.

Out of concern for the tree, it was decided to just light the trunk this year. The hope was the internal light would radiate outward and illuminate all the branches. Didn’t happen.

And worse, the crowd was not aware of this radical new approach or the reasons for it. Their groaning disappointment was later coupled with embarrassment as the world, quite rightly, laughed at us.

Best-laid plans gang aft agley.

The irony is the modern-day lighting of trees is a distortion of the ancient ritual of carrying torches into the forest at the winter solstice. The idea was to bring warmth to the trees on the longest, coldest nights. It was all about the trees’ comfort and survival, just as the decision to spare our tree the weight of lights was a similar kind-hearted gesture.

So, in a weird way this year’s bizarre tree-lighting ceremony runs closer to the spirit of ancient winter rites.

I doubt any of this information will help much at this point. The damage is done.

But whether Christmas trees are lit broadly or narrowly, whether topped with angels or stars, Santa will surely do his rounds, a saviour will be born again, and hope and good cheer will sustain us in the depths of winter until the days begin to grow longer and warmer again.

Colin McKim