‘Tis the season of Christmas tree lightings across the Bronx, and Van Nest is no exception.
The Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance hosted their second annual Christmas Tree Lighting on Thursday, December 4.
A modest group of community members gathered at the St. Dominic’s convent on Van Nest Avenue to celebrate the holiday season with hot chocolate, cookies, and caroling.
The event was conceived last year as a way to celebrate both the season and the neighborhood.
“Van Nest needed to have something like this,” said Bernadette Ferrara, vice president of the VNNA. “We wanted to bring the community together, even if just for an hour.”
The neighborhood alliance envisions the tradition continuing for many years, and growing bigger each holiday season, said Ferrara. Each year they will try to add a new element to the festivities—this year the tree was bigger than last—and they will focus on ways to get word out to more people.
“We hope that next year it will be a larger celebration, and we look forward to that,” said Ferrara.
In addition to the local residents, the event was attended by Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda and Councilman Ritchie Torres, who represents Van Nest, as well as 49th Precinct’s commanding officer, Capt. Timothy McCormack.
A handful of new neighbors in Van Nest turned out on the cold evening to take part in the community event.
Thelma Ojeda, who recently moved to the area, brought her whole family out for the celebration. Her kids had never been to a tree lighting before.
Jennifer Perez also just moved to the neighborhood with her two daughters, Tyanna and Cianna, who were happy to participate in the holiday festivities.
“They love Christmas,” said Perez.
Tyanna, 10, especially liked the cookies and the caroling.
“I like everybody singing together,” she said.
The group sang classic Christmas songs including Deck the Halls, Joy to the World, and Silent Night, led by Pastor Mary Hernquist of the Van Nest Assembly of God.
Hernquist said the tree lighting gave neighbors a great reason to come together and celebrate their community.
“I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to recognize the meaning to the season with our neighbors,” she said.
The Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance is also hosting a holiday toy drive for children who will spend the holidays in the children’s inpatient unit at Jacobi Medical Center.
To learn how to donate new toys or money, call or text Marie Santillana at (646) 305-4913.