Christmas comes to town: Farmville tree lighting starts 2023 season

Published 11:13 pm Sunday, November 19, 2023

FARMVILLE – People started piling into High Bridge Plaza around 5 p.m. on Sunday, almost an hour before the Farmville tree lighting. Children sang along with the Cumberland County Middle/High School Band, they and their families received hot cocoa and cookies from the North Street Press Club and The Fishin’ Pig and picked up a book of their own to read later, courtesy of Virginia Children’s Book Festival. 

But then, as the sun set, it was time for the main event, the Farmville tree lighting. It’s still somewhat of a new tradition in Farmville. Music plays, a switch is flipped and the lights on the town Christmas tree sparkle. This year’s celebration marked the ninth year the practice has been happening in town and it’s changed slightly every time. 

Originally, the town used a synthetic tree, one donated by Longwood University that had previously been in the Rotunda. But starting in 2020, the Town of Farmville went shopping for one of their own each year. 

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This year’s tree was named Bruce the Spruce by a poll of local residents. Now some people focus on the star on top of the tree, but there are plenty of other decorations. Town officials estimate it took six or seven Farmville employees at different times to install and decorate the tree, which includes an estimated 250 ornaments. 

A little bit of history

Speaking of ornaments and lights, they look quite a bit different than the original version, several centuries ago. In fact, Christmas lights were originally just candles, attached to the tree using wax or pins. The idea started in Germany during the 17th century and just kept going through the years, eventually spreading out into the rest of Eastern Europe.

But where did the electric lights come in? That would happen in 1882. Edward Johnson, Thomas Edison’s friend and partner in Edison Illumination Company, assembled 80 red, white and blue light bulbs, wiring them all by hand. Then he wound them around his Christmas tree and turned them on.

Missed the Farmville tree lighting? No problem

Now if you missed Sunday night’s event, don’t worry. You can visit the tree in Main Street Plaza through the end of December. And if you want to see more Christmas events, the annual Farmville Christmas parade is set for Sunday, Dec. 3. That’ll begin at 5:30 p.m. and run through the downtown area, with a theme of “All About The Lights”.