Growing annual Tree Lighting becomes a family tradition

Growing annual Tree Lighting becomes a family tradition

Trees arrive at the Cumberland Monastery on Monday in advance of Sunday’s lighting event.

CUMBERLAND – Another 25 trees have been added for Cumberland Recreation’s Christmas Tree Lighting at the Monastery this year, coming this Sunday, Dec. 9, to the Cumberland Monastery, 1464 Diamond Hill Road, with 160 trees powered by newly expanded electrical power in the park.

“It’s getting bigger every year,” said Arlene Nunn, of the Cumberland Recreation Department and organizer of the annual event. “It’s becoming what I envisioned in the beginning, a nice community affair.”

Sunday’s lighting, set to happen at 5 p.m., will be more than three times larger than the original event in 2013, when there were 50 trees, said Nunn. More requests came flooding in this week, she said, but those people had to be turned away. Prior to this week, she was able to get trees for everyone waiting for a tree.

“We helped everyone we could,” she said.

There will be a large crowd on hand Sunday, with a minimum of five people per family represented, according to Nunn. Many are decorating their trees this week because the trees arrived later than usual with an order placed by owners of Phantom Farm. Residents typically have two weekends to get their trees ready, but this year had only one.

About 95 percent of all trees are memorial trees, with residents decorating them in memory of a loved one who has died, said Nunn. A few are “happy trees,” including a Scout tree and some family trees promoting happy thoughts.

Happy or sad, the trees at the Monastery have become an annual tradition for many families, said Nunn. Many don’t have their own tree anymore, some because they’ve lost a loved one, and this is their way of still marking the holiday in a way that’s meaningful to them.

Due to the more somber nature of the December-long lighting, it doesn’t have a countdown to lighting and will probably never have more festive events such as the ones seen at Pawtucket Winter Wonderland, said Nunn. Winterfest at Diamond Hill Park has more of the fun, festive atmosphere.

It costs each family $30 for a tree, $40 if it’s pre-lit, said Nunn. About 75 of the trees are lit by town staffers, meaning they’re able to control energy usage with LED lights.

Nunn personalizes each of the signs marking trees. Many of the people who visit the display comment that they love the signs, and she said staff also enjoys getting to know the people behind the trees through their signs.

The running joke for the event is that it’s like two holidays in one, the “Easter egg hunt” being the search for an available tree, with no reservations allowed, and the Christmas celebration once you find it, said Nunn.

Starting at 4 p.m., Sunday’s event will feature singers from Mercymount Country Day School singing carols, adding a bit of a festive atmosphere, and there will also be the GottaQ food truck for those who are hungry. Greg Polite is again donating use of his Boston Mojo Booth, which has become another tradition for people looking for creative family pictures as a souvenir from the evening. Still to be seen is whether there will be a tent with free hot chocolate again this year.

Organizers ask all of those with trees to have them decorated by dark on Saturday, as testing needs to happen during the day on Sunday.


I'd like to get on this list , but never notified when it becomes available. We want to have a tree for CJ (Carl John III) , since his passing 2 years ago. Hope to make next years trees!!!