By Maryum Tucker, Correspondent
UNION — Union held its 30th annual holiday celebration and tree lighting ceremony on Sunday, Dec. 8, at the municipal building lawn on Morris Avenue in a celebration that kicked off the holiday season and showed appreciation for the children and families of Union.
Director of Recreation for Union, Matty Magliacano, used the opportunity to inform the audience and residents of union about the upcoming events, but the focus of the celebration was mainly on the children of Union. It centered on students from Battle Hill and Jefferson elementary who performed all the music in the celebration. The audience was urged by State Assemblyman Joe Cryan to “give all the children a round of applause.”
Mayor Clifton People Jr. said it was “definitely a great time for the young people” and wished everyone a “very happy and healthy holiday season.”
The celebration was organized by Magliacano.
Union is “very welcome for the people of the township, especially the children,” said Magliacano. “They look forward to it.”
He went on to thank members from the township council, Deputy Mayor Manuel Figueiredo, Anthony Terrezza, Suzetta Cavadas, and Joseph Florio, all of whom made the event possible, he said.
Members from all over the community pitched in to help make the event a success. Members of Crossroads Christian Fellowship performed the nativity scene. They had live animals and let the kids take pictures with them. Union High School Theater program set up a concession booth to raise foods for their program. The Girl Scouts were there as well, handing out free cookies to the crowd. Children from Battle Hill and Jefferson played an array of Christmas classics like, “Joy to the World”, “Sing a Song of Christmas”, “Jingle Bell”, “Grandmas Killer Fruit Cake”, and “Jingle Bell Rock.”
Residents of Union came out to enjoy the event and to support family members who performed in the concert.
“I enjoy every year they do the tree lighting. My brother David Rodriguez is in it. He’s always the loudest one and really cute,” said Sapphaire Rodriguez, graduate of Union High School.
“My son Byron is playing the trumpet. It’s a family tradition. The kids get a little psyched up, they get happy, they know Christmas is coming. We do it for them,” said Byron Maddox, proud parent of the trumpet player.
Despite the 32-degree weather and snow, parents were happy to attend the celebration.
“It’s a wonderful event, especially for the children. My kids are excited they’ve been waiting for it and talking about it,” said Irna Abdulkina, a two-year Union resident.
“It’s a lot of fun for the kids. I wish it was not so cold. If it was a little warmer, it would have been nicer but I had a great time. I think the kids did, too,” said David Braham, a Union County resident and concert participant.
The honor of lighting the tree went to Bill Lavin, a firefighter and former president of the Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Association and sole founder of Where Angels Play, an organization that builds playgrounds in superstorm Sandy-affected areas and dedicates them to memorialize the students and teachers who lost their lives in the Sandy Hook tragedy.
Each of the playgrounds is designed to reflect the personality of one of the Sandy Hill victims. His organization raised $1 million and built 14 playgrounds to date in the tri-state area.
In his speech he urged parents to “hug your kids tight this Christmas, let Santa go a little overboard. Life is short and precious.”
He ended with a quote from his mother: “If you throw your problems in a pile with everyone else’s you will be fighting to get yours back.”
He also advised members of the audience to be grateful for their children and what they have.
The celebration concluded with Santa Claus riding in on a fire truck with the lights flashing. He shook hands with the cops, waved to the children, and wished everyone a merry Christmas while posing for picture with the kids.
It was a merry celebration in Union to ring in the holiday season.