Poem captures Christmas Tree Lighting tradition

Poem captures Christmas Tree Lighting tradition

I wrote a story for Sunday's paper about a new book called “Christmas in Illinois,” edited by James Ballowe.

You can read all about the book in Sunday's paper, but in short, it's an extensive collection of essays, poems, recipes, newspaper articles and many other items that describe Christmas throughout the state. Ballowe told me he wants people to be able to see themselves and their geography in the book, and then get a look at how Christmas is celebrated in other areas.

One particular poem included in it stood out at me. It reminds me of Paxton's Christmas Tree Lighting, which happens the Friday after Thanksgiving each year. High school kids sing, essay contest winners are announced and best of all, community members light the giant tree that presides over Paxton's downtown each year.

It's not the most glamorous celebration, but I wouldn't miss it for anything.


Some Words for the Lighting of the Christmas Tree in Auburn, Illinois Town Square

John Knoepfle


this tree will be our own

rising star it will sparkle

even if there are clouds in the sky

this soft-needled fur

glowing with light

the greens blues reds

the yellows all

the good colors these

tinsel cheers in a dark evening

the winter wearing to that cold

hour when the snow swirls

may hide the solstice

and we will find once more the

vast dark of the first breaking

from which all the light

gleaming in our eyes was drawn


and so for those who will

come by and share these lights

and for those who have

lived here in our time

or back as far as the generations will go

and for those who will yet

move here in some other season

of flickering lights

let us ask a blessing

a blessing for all of them

and for ourselves – for everyone


as we stand in the privilege

of this one instant prepared for us

on this small planet

this manger of reflecting light

in the freedom of the heavens



What about you? What's the holiday tradition you wouldn't skip for the world?


Photo is courtesy of Paxton Record Editor Will Brumleve.


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algon wrote on November 19, 2010 at 11:11 am

What a perfect poem for the Christmas tree lighting. I think we will probably be hobbling to that tradition with our walkers and wheelchairs, asking "Now, what time does this start again?"

Forgetting, of course, that it's been at 7 for the past 60 years. I love it! Puts me in the Christmas spirit.

Meg Dickinson wrote on November 19, 2010 at 11:11 am
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I can just picture it: "I can't hear him ... what did he just say?!"