It begins after Thanksgiving: the season the Christmas tree. The iconic evergreen triangles will pop up all over town. First there will be the tree lots and then they will begin to appear in people’s picture windows, peeking out between the curtains, lovely pine, spruce and fir trees proudly displayed – festooned with strings of twinkling lights and glittering ornaments. Christmas trees transform humble living rooms into chambers of cheer. I have a vintage, silver, tinsel tree that I’ve set up every year since 1984. The first year it was decorated with bobbers, fishing lures and cocktail umbrellas. My collection of ornaments has since become more varied.
Larger Christmas trees will be prominently featured in most of the local communities and municipalities. Municipal tree lighting celebrations are a big part of the cycle of the seasons. Additionally, the Mary Bridge Festival of Trees is about to unfold and Life Center will soon be hosting concerts by its Singing Christmas Tree: a choir of singers arranged into a gigantic Christmas tree formation to perform an extravaganza of holiday music.
Following is a listing of all things Christmas tree related in and around Tacoma:
Mary Bridge Festival of Trees
Friday, Nov. 30 and Saturday, Dec. 1., 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day
Greater Tacoma Convention Center, 1500 Commerce St., Tacoma
The Festival of Trees is an annual event benefiting Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital and Clinics. The convention center will be made into a sparkling wonderland of dozens of trees dolled up and decked out by designers. Like works of art, these themed trees are given titles and are auctioned off during the course of the festival.
In general, “Festival of Trees” is the name taken by a number of charity organizations that hold annual events around Christmas time to raise money for some local charity like children hospitals, as is the case in Tacoma. In a typical such festival, sponsors who agree to cover costs of a particular tree’s decorations are brought in to participate. Often elaborate theming is employed. Sometimes clubs, schools or other organizations participate as well as professional designers.
The hall is opened to the designers or organizations to decorate and arrange the trees, and then the general public is invited to view the trees and enjoy holiday entertainment. The public may be able to bid or buy raffle tickets for the trees or other decorations, or for prizes also donated. Typically, one of the event goals is to sell every tree on display.
At some point, there may be a black-tie gala for contributors or supporters. Presentations about the supported charity are often made. There may be other attractions such as children’s play areas, craft areas, visits with Santa and so forth.
Tacoma’s Mary Bridge Festival of Trees will have two nightlife events: “Tinsel on the Town,” a dinner, dance and auction on Nov. 30, and the “Gala,” a black-tie holiday celebration featuring a live tree auction on Dec. 1. Tickets to “Tinsel on the Town” cost $150. Holiday cocktail attire is recommended. Tickets to the Gala are $300, and black tie attire is the order of the evening.
Additionally, the Convention Center will have public hours from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on both days. The public can view the decorated Christmas trees and enjoy performances by local groups.
Cost is $6 adults, $2 children 5-12, free for children under 5.
For free admission, bring a non-perishable food item with you. Preferably individually-wrapped, grab-and-go snacks or boxed items such as fruit roll-ups, granola bars, etc. Donations will benefit families staying at Tree House while their child receives care at Mary Bridge.
Municipal Tree Lighting Events:
(As this issue of the Tacoma Weekly goes to press, the Tacoma and the Edgewood tree-lighting celebrations already took place on Nov. 23.)
Extreme Christmas Tree Lighting
Wednesday, Nov. 28, 6 p.m.
Washington State Fair Grounds, Puyallup
Included with admission to A Victorian Country Christmas on Nov. 28 (see page 15 for more information on A Victorian Country Christmas). Join the Washington State Fair Events Center as they kick off the holiday season in style at the annual Extreme Christmas Tree Lighting. Enjoy complimentary hot cider, cookies and holiday music as Santa arrives to light up the 185-foot Extreme Christmas Tree with 4,494 twinkling lights before your very eyes. New this year is the chance to visit with Santa’s reindeer.
Ticket admission to A Victorian Country Christmas is required to attend the tree lighting. Admission is only $2 per person from 3-7 p.m. with a new toy donation to the Salvation Army. Bring your new and unwrapped toy to the Blue or Gold Gate for your discounted admission to A Victorian Country Christmas and Extreme Christmas Tree Lighting events.
Puyallup Tree Lighting (in conjunction with Puyallup Santa parade)
Saturday, Dec. 1, 5 p.m.
Pioneer Park, 330 S. Meridian, Puyallup
Bring the kids to welcome Santa! See the jolly old elf arrive on one of Puyallup’s finest fire engines. Included in the festivities is the Holiday Market (12-7 p.m.) in the Pioneer Park Pavilion and the lighting of the community tree in Pioneer Park.
Gig Harbor Holiday Tree Lighting
Saturday, Dec. 1, 5-6:30 p.m.
Skansie Brothers Park, 3207 Harborview Dr., Gig Harbor
Come to Gig Harbor’s official kick off of the holiday season. Visit with Santa and hear some lively holiday tunes. Co-sponsored by the Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance – don’t miss visiting the Skansie Net Shed for cider, coffee and cookies.
City of Fircrest Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony
Sunday, Dec. 2, 7 p.m.
Alice Peers Park, Regents Blvd. and Electron Way, Fircrest
Come to the Fircrest holiday celebration. Bring your camera for a photo with Santa, enjoy live holiday music and grab some cookies and a hot drink. Refreshments to follow at Community Center, 555 Contra Costa Ave.
City of Fife Holiday Tree Lighting
Tuesday, Dec. 4, 6-7 p.m.
Fife City Hall, 5411 23rd St. E., Fife
Santa trades in his sleigh for a fire truck. Come celebrate the season with the Fife mayor and Santa as they use some holiday magic to light up the trees outside of city hall. Free photos with Santa, cookies and hot cocoa.
University Place Christmas Tree Lighting
Friday, Dec. 7, 4-8 p.m.
Market Square, University Place
Come for an evening under the lights in Market Square for the annual Christmas Tree Lighting. Enjoy Tastyz Kettle Corn, face painting and fun with Entertainment Masters, school performances and more to help University Place kick off this holiday season.
Milton Tree Lighting
Saturday, Dec. 8, 3-8 p.m.
Milton City Hall, 1000 Laurel Street, Milton
Come to the annual Milton Tree Lighting and Holiday Festivities. The Milton Event Committee is hard at work planning for this free event.
Lakewood Christmas Tree Lighting Festival
Saturday, Dec. 8, 4:30-7 p.m.
Lakewood City Hall, 6000 Main St. SW, Lakewood
The Lakewood Christmas Tree Lighting is at 4:30 p.m. Prior to that, there will be a Candy Cane Lane Holiday Market and Craft Fair with items for sale around the fountain at City Hall. The Parade of Lights begins at 3:30 p.m. and children have two options to visit with Santa (from 12 to 2 p.m. and again from 5 to 6:30 p.m.).
Life Center’s Singing Christmas Tree
Dec. 8-23 (see website for specific times)
Life Center Central Campus, 1717 S. Union Ave., Tacoma
The Singing Christmas Tree started in 1963 and has run continuously ever since. This concert of singers placed in the heights of a gigantic Christmas tree is billed as a Christmas celebration unlike any other in the Northwest. Bring your friends and family for an evening of holiday music, breath-taking lights and sets and an inspirational story that will make you laugh and may very well bring you to tears. The production features 175 performers in the choir, as actors and orchestra musicians. More than 100,000 lights are used to create a dazzling show.
The 2018 production of the Singing Christmas Tree returns to Harper’s Toy Store where the cast is a collection of adorable toys displayed throughout the store. Back by popular demand, this story is loved by children of all ages and is a bit of a mystery where our characters are in pursuit of the “Christmas Key.” What that key represents and who is most impacted by it is the mystery. Featuring new music, new characters and sets from the previous production, the Christmas Key is sure to be another hit this Christmas season.
The $6 general admission sections are on a first come, first served basis for each show. You are encouraged to come early and line up in the designated areas. A hospitality team will direct and assist you if you have any questions. There is plenty of free parking in the Life Center parking lot with designated areas for handicap parking as well.
If putting up holiday lights is part of your tradition in the coming weeks, make sure you know how to properly dispose of those lights that may be old or non-working.
The holidays are right around the corner and many of you may start pulling out your old lights only to discover they no longer work – which inevitably seems to be part of the tradition. Tacoma Environmental Services’ Recycle Center accepts holidays lights year-round, wire and all. When you find a pile that is out of service, please bring it over to 3510 S. Mullen St. Have questions? Call (253) 502-2100.