Choir group the Floyd Dryden Eagles leads a crowd in the singing of Christmas carols at the Douglas Community United Methodist Church on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, during the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony. The Douglas 4th of July Parade Committee hosts the tree lighting each year in recognition of the two holidays — Christmas and the 4th of July — miners were given during Juneau’s mining days. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Choir group the Floyd Dryden Eagles leads a crowd in the singing of Christmas carols at the Douglas Community United Methodist Church on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, during the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony. The Douglas 4th of July Parade Committee hosts the tree lighting each year in recognition of the two holidays — Christmas and the 4th of July — miners were given during Juneau’s mining days. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)

Christmas season begins in Douglas with songs and lights

Annual tree lighting kicks off season

This article has been updated to correctly identify the choir group that performed at the tree lighting event, and the organizing committee.

The Christmas season officially began Friday evening in Douglas, when residents gathered for singing and a tree lighting. The small courtyard of the Douglas Community United Methodist Church was filled with bodies and song as over 100 Juneau residents packed themselves in an arch around the tree — its colorful lights the main source of illumination.

“This is my favorite tradition,” said Allison Waid, who was there with her 6-month-old son Henry strapped to her chest. “It just feels like the most small town, kind of Charlie Brown Christmas thing.”

The crowd was mostly families, and headbands with reindeer antlers were handed out to kids and adults who gathered during a break in Juneau’s rain and snow.

The Douglas tree lighting is an annual tradition hosted by the Douglas 4th of July Parade Committee in recognition of the two holidays miners at the nearby Treadwell gold mine were allowed during the mine’s lifetime.

[Sales or not, downtown business open for holiday shopping]

“On those two days the stamps would stop and the town would be quiet,” said Molly McCormick, a committee member.

The Floyd Dryden Eagles, a choir made up of sixth graders and Floyd Dryden Middle School alumni, led the crowd in singing. They were directed by music teacher Missouri Smyth. The Eagles mostly sang Christmas carols but the group opened the ceremony with a chant by Chief Seattle of the Suquamish Tribe, as transcribed into music by Donna Otto. The chant describes the beauty of Earth, Smyth said in an email.

Songbooks were distributed, but many didn’t need them as the group worked its way through familiar Christmas songs such as “Silent Night” and “Jingle Bell Rock.”

The 4th of July Committee also annually hosts a Skate with Santa event at the nearby Treadwell Arena. Because of the COVID-19 mitigation rules still in place this year’s skating event was limited in capacity and required reservations. Two 45-minute skate sessions were held Friday evening, both of which were full, according to McCormick.

Before the lighting, United Methodist’s Pastor Karen Dammann recognized the diverse beliefs in the community, and invited the people gathered to think of their own spiritual traditions.

“I invite you to bring light to the world,” Dammann said.

• Contact reporter Peter Segall at psegall@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.

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