Local holiday tradition coming to a close

Andrew Wagstaff
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25th anniversary to be final year for Living Christmas Tree

PORT GREVILLE – This year will mark the final performance of Port Greville’s popular Living Christmas Tree, according to director Judy Wheaton, and this time she means it.

The Port Greville Living Christmas Tree will be held for the final year on Dec. 14-15, during which it will also celebrate its 25th anniversary.

The annual performance of Christmas music at Grace United Church (by people standing in the formation of a Christmas tree) will mark its 25th anniversary this year. Wheaton, who has considered pulling the plug on it for a few years now, said the time feels right now.

“As much as I hate to do it, it just seems like the right time to make it the last one,” said Wheaton

She said she discussed the matter with her faithful musical accompanists, Rod Boland and Jim Scopie, and they did discuss the idea of having another one next year. But she said she knew this was the year to wrap it up, even though those who have heard her say such things in the past are not all convinced.

“It’s been such a wonderful thing, but sometimes you can kill a good thing,” said Wheaton. “I’d rather go out strong. We’re all getting older and, just in my heart, I think it’s the right time.”

This year’s shows will fall on Dec. 14-15, and plans are moving ahead to make this a show to remember. Anyone who has participated in past performances is being invited to come back and take part in what Wheaton hopes will be the best show in the history of the event.

Plans are for the show to also have a focus on children, with the song “Christmas is for Kids” as a central theme.

“I also want to make sure everyone who gave their times and talents over the years are thanked,” said Wheaton. “Whether it was singing or decorating, phoning or baking, I want to make sure they all know how much they were appreciated.”

The idea was hatched for the Living Christmas Tree in Port Greville in the late 1980s during a conversation between Wheaton – organist for the church – and Rev. Bradley Little, who was minister there at the time. He suggested a combined choir be put together for Christmas, and she agreed to work on it as a fundraiser for the local ecumenical Sunday School.

“It didn’t start out as a tree; it started as an old-fashioned Christmas concert,” she explained.

It was after she and Sylvia Jewers attended a performance of the Living Christmas Tree in Moncton, N.B. that it was decided to try one in Port Greville. It was a hit, and the event has become a mainstay of the local holiday season ever since. Although the Sunday School – its original beneficiary – has long since faded away, the event has continued to raise money for the church through donations.

The past 25 years have brought many memories – beautiful music, but also many laughs, a tremendous amount of work, and even some broken bones. The house has been packed for almost every show, despite even the worst of snowstorms.

The Tree has continued not only through the hard work of its director, who begins planning each show within weeks of the last one, but many who have shown tremendous dedication over the years, meeting every Monday from mid-October for practices. Some have been there from the very beginning.

“There have been the faithful ones every year,” said Wheaton. “And we want this to be our best year.”


Twitter: @ADNandrew

Organizations: Grace United Church

Geographic location: Port Greville, Moncton

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Recent comments

  • Carol-Ann Boland
    October 16, 2013 - 21:47

    A beautiful tradition which will be remembered for many years to come. I'm sure those involved even looked forward to all that hard work every year! Bless you all!