Festive Coral Bay Christmas Tree Lighting, Carol Sing Attracts Spirited Crowd

St. Johnian George January lights the Christmas tree at the Coral Bay Community holiday program with help from Robin Gallup.

About 150 people came out to join in the holiday cheer at the 45th annual Coral Bay Community Christmas Program on Wednesday night, Dec. 14. Local educator Guy Benjamin opened the festivities with a prayer blessing, and George January, a founding member of the ceremony, lit the small but well-decorated Christmas tree.

The Coral Bay tradition has been going on since 1960, when residents began gathering during the Christmas season to sing carols and spread the joy of the season, according to the night’s master of ceremonies and John’s Folly Learning Institute founder, Alvis Christian.

45-year Old Vision Upheld
“Most of the founding members have passed on, but three are still with us: Miss Lucy Smith-Prince, Uncle George January and Aunt Eirleen January,” said Christian. “Forty-five years ago, they saw the vision and the wisdom of this gathering, and we have upheld this with the great showing of all of you tonight.”

The Christmas program is a nod to the true culture of St. John, according to January.

“We used to get together every weekend to have a little party and cook up a pot of all kinds of food,” he said. “When Christmas was coming, we said, ‘Let’s all get together.’ So we shared all of our food and our guavaberry, and sang songs.”

Each neighborhood on the eastern half of the island, from Bordeaux to Eden, was represented this year, as were all ages—from the young members of the John’s Folly Learning Institute to the Moravian Church elders. The audience was entertained with all types of carols, from the religious “Jesus is the Light of the World,” to the popular “Jingle Bells.”

Residents participated in the program to celebrate the season and to cultivate the area’s sense of unity.

“I’m here because it’s Christmas and I love Christmas,” said Coral Bay resident Sally Bolhous. “But it’s also a really nice community thing to be a part of.”

Strong Sense of Community
“We’ve always done this every year, for the past 10 years, and we look forward to it,” said Bordeaux resident Adette Irish. “This is what starts our Christmas for us.”

Senator at Large Craig Barshinger, decked out in a Santa hat, played a pocket coronet and sang with a number of neighborhood groups.

The impressive crowd included facets of the multicultural tapestry that makes up St. John.

“It’s important to get all of the community together with the children, especially during this time of year,” said Coral Bay Community Council President Sharon Coldren. “I hope it continues to grow every year.”

“It’s a fun thing to get all of the people together and have a good time,” said John’s Folly resident Joan Thomas.

Residents too shy to stand and sing before the group had a chance to join in with the entire audience for renditions of “Joy to the World,” “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.”

Santa Delights Children
Even Santa Claus made an appearance before the night was over, riding in on a fire truck, to the delight of the numerous children present. Every child walked away with a present, donated by community members.

“Be proud that you are all a part of a tradition that has been going on for 45 years now,” Christian said. “Make sure all of your friends and neighbors come out next year.”

Barbara Dalmida-Thompson led the group in a closing prayer and everyone enjoyed snacks and refreshments.

“I think it was great because people came together at this event, and you could feel the joy, despite what happened this year,” said Christian at the end of the evening. “This was the greatest turnout we’ve had in the past 12 years.”

The event was a true community production. Skinny Legs provided refreshments and lights, the Coral Bay Community Council helped organize the evening along with members of the John’s Folly Learning Institute, and Andy Greaux made sure that the area was clean of debris before and after the festivities.