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An evening aglow in the Center: Happiness flows at annual Shelter Island tree lighting

Alexandra Binder was handing out glow “necklaces” — circular plastic bands of light — at the annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony in front of Police headquarters Tuesday evening. The glowing necklaces were compliments of the Chamber of Commerce, which also sponsored the event. Asked how many tree lightings she had attended, Ms. Binder said, with a smile, “Well, I’m 35, so I’d say … 34?”

The tree lighting is one of the many events on Shelter Island — the Halloween Parade, Crafts Fair and the Fireworks Show at Crescent Beach are others — that are handed down through the generations. Ms. Binder was continuing the tradition with her two sons, Garrett and Hudson, waiting to watch the towering Colorado spruce come alive with the colors of Christmas.

Questions for Ms. Claus. (Credit Adam Bundy)

The Shelter Island Highway Department decorates the tree every year. The lights circling the branches were donated more than a decade ago by Shelter Island Ace Hardware, according to Dave Gurney. The Highway Department replaces the old bulbs with LED lights, when needed.

A happy crowd ready to kick off the season. (Credit: Adam Bundy)

Children were everywhere, smiles on every face, free to dash around, bundled up against a wind chill below freezing, their laughter and shouts carrying clearly in the bracing air of the December evening. Lidia Needham held young Kiprian, who seemed a little shy, but soon was on his feet, looking all around in wonder at the proceedings.

A stand with digital numbers was set up for the countdown to the lighting and a snare drum beat softly as the time approached to light up the tree. Master of Ceremonies Brett Surerus, in a shiny red suit, stood on the steps of police headquarters as a band played Christmas carols.

Mr. Surerus introduced his daugher, Piper, 8, who had a message for the gathering from the movie “Elf:” “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.”

The MC then said there were some special guests he wanted to introduce, and out of the doors behind him came Santa and Ms. Claus — looking remarkably like Jim Pugh and Sarah Shepherd. Santa wished everyone a Merry Christmas in several languages.

At zero on the digital clock, the switch was flipped by Savannah Hovekamp, and the tree flashed with lights, topped by a glimmering gold star.

O Christmas tree! (Credit: Adam Bundy)

Parents were calling their kids to gather. Friends wished each other Merry Christmas as they departed. Many walked — kids running — to the Community Center for free hot chocolate and cookies provided by the Chamber, and to have  proper introductions to Santa and Ms. Claus.

In the crowded half-light of the room, colored lights played across the ceiling as the band played sprightly carols. In the center was a long, wide table with plates of cookies and brownies. A little girl silently stood, looking. Finally she said, “It’s so beautiful.”

Which tied a bright bow on another Shelter Island tree lighting.