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A good-sized crowd gathered at Veterans Memorial Park in Salem to watch the town’s annual tree-lighting celebration on Thursday, Dec. 6. The event was sponsored by the Salem Lions Club and featured holiday music, storytelling and singing by the Haigh School chorus.Here, Angelina Racioppi, Hana Weymouth and Haley Major dance among the Christmas lights. (Jon Tripp Photo)

Salem hosts tree-lighting ceremony

Dozens of Salem residents braved the cold on Dec. 6 as they gathered in Veterans Park for the town’s annual tree-lighting event.

Sponsored by the Salem Lions Club, the festive evening included appearances by guest speakers Richard O’Shaughnessy, former principal of Barron and Fisk schools; Salem Sen. Charles Morse; and Salem representatives Robert Elliot and Anne Priestly.

Families gathered around the common’s tallest evergreen tree, strung with thousands of colorful lights to officially kick off the 2012 holiday season.

Wearing red velvet Santa hats, a choir of third-graders from Haigh Elementary School was clustered inside the bandstand, leading the crowds in a variety of Christmas carols.

Morse, a former Salem selectman and town moderator, shared a few holiday memories of how he helped his children discover the season’s generosity when they were still small.

“I took them to pick out some gifts for the less fortunate,” he recalled.

O’Shaughnessy, who has lived in Salem for more than four decades and remains active in various community causes, said he always loves a good Christmas story.

“My favorite story is a true one,” he told his audience.

Reading aloud the true tale of how German and English soldiers serving in trenches during World War I, the story of how scared young men on both sides came together one Christmas Eve touched many hearts.

“On that eve in 1914, two armies were huddled in their trenches,” he said. “There were no lights, just countless stars.”

One German soldier broke that silence by singing “Silent Night,” and with the help of the local third-graders, the crowd in Salem lifted up their voices as well.

“Soon the British joined in and all those voices filled the air,” said O’Shaughnessy. “Both armies began to sing the songs we still sing today. They sang in different languages but the message was the same: We have more in common than we have differences.”

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