Confession: I’ve never been to Ipswich’s tree lighting, despite living across the street from it. In my defense, I never know when they’re going to light the tree, as it’s one of the many annual Ipswich traditions that’s been done forever so you’re just supposed to know about it. From what I finally gather, it happens at 6:30pm on (maybe?) the last Friday of December. This year, when I heard the music and saw people crowding outside (surprise!), I decided to go out and join them instead of creepily watching them from my apartment window.
Instead of holiday songs, the tree light DJ was playing Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” and that “all your curves and all your edges” song by John Legend. I thought that was kind of strange until I was handed a candle and a pamphlet that informed me that this tree is sponsored by a funeral home in town, and each star ornament on the tree has the name of a person who has passed away this year, and that we want to remember. Hence the “Memory Tree.” Ah.
A man from the funeral home lit my candle and it promptly blew out. The on-duty police officer let me borrow his lighter and gave me the tip to the hold the candle sideways so it wouldn’t go out again. Other people’s candles blew out and we kept all re-lighting each other’s candles in this circle of “ah, my candle is out again!” And this went on for a half hour as every single name on the tree was read aloud. Every. Name. There had to be about 300. I had no idea this was part of the lighting ceremony, and once I was in it, I couldn’t really bail without looking like an insensitive jerk. So I did my best to be respectful and practice patience, even while my candle started dripping all over my jacket and then its little paper holder caught on fire and I had to wave it around to put it out. At one point, I realized my fingers were freezing so I juggled my candle while attempting to put on gloves. Oh, and also, the names weren’t read in alphabetical order, so there was no way of knowing how far along we were.
After the final name was read, we initiated a countdown from ten, and on one, the tree lit up! Everyone said “Woo!” and “Ahh!” and then we parted ways.