News: Holiday Tree Lighting ceremony brightens MCAS Iwakuni
Story by Lance Cpl. Cayce Nevers
MARINE CORPS AIR STATION IWAKUNI, Japan - Each year, the station hosts a Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony at Cherry Blossom Triangle, located next to the commissary. This year, Marine Corps Community Services Special Event Program held the festivities Nov. 24, 2012.
“The Tree Lighting Ceremony marks the beginning of the holiday season for the community,” said Sean McHenry, MCCS marketing director. “It is a time for everyone to get together and share in some of the things that they would share at home.”
Santa took time out of his busy schedule to visit attendees of the ceremony. A disc jockey and Matthew C. Perry music program performed holiday favorites. The Holiday Tree Lighting ceremony also offered hot chocolate, apple cider, cookies and prize drawings to those who came out to see the tree light up for the first time this year.
“The significance of the Tree Lighting Ceremony is important because in an overseas environment, we do have the opportunity to be in another culture and see some of those things,” said McHenry. “However, people miss their families. They miss that warm, fuzzy feeling that they get from social gatherings. It is a way for those servicemembers and families to have a little taste of home here.”
The Cherry Blossom Triangle filled with people as the event kicked off.
“This year, we estimated about 600 people were there. Last year, there were probably about 450 people and the year before that there were about 400 people,” said McHenry. “It surpassed what we thought it was going to be. We expected between 400 to 500 people. We were very pleased with the turnout.”
There are many different stories throughout the world of how the Christmas tree came about.
“Regardless of how it started, the lights symbolize the season,” said McHenry. “Even though Christianity is not the dominant religion in Japan, there are a lot of celebrations of lights. It has become symbolic for this time of year.”
Whether the tree is a religious symbol or is simply for decoration, many adhere to the custom of placing a tree in their homes to celebrate the holiday season.
The station, throughout the holiday season, continues to keep the holiday tree standing at Cherry Blossom Triangle, bringing a little taste of home to servicemembers and families stationed overseas.