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At a recent Thursday morning coffee hour at the library the conversation was accompanied by preparation for this year’s Village Christmas Tree as red bells were “recycled” from a garland to be hung on the library trees on Sunday afternoon, Dec. 2.
This is the 22nd year since the tradition began after the Champaign County Homemakers’ Extension (now known as HCE) had an event at Market Place Mall called Fun Days with Throwaways.
The aim was to encourage repurposing of normally discarded items, and this idea was the basis for creative decorations for the very big tree that stood near where the Welcome to Philo tree is now.
For the first few years, Thelma Melohn was the mayor and enthusiastically supported the project, personally putting up street barriers there at the west end of Washington Street and giving the signal for the lights to be lit.
In 1994, Mayor Jean McCormick dedicated the event to the memory of Miss Melohn and since 1997, Mayor Craig Eckert has led the festivities, often remarking that it is one of his favorite “duties” as mayor.
When the new library was built, HCE initiated a village fundraiser to buy a Norway spruce for the grounds of the library, and Kleiss Nursery planted a 10-foot tree for less than half of the usual price. After 10 years it was too large to trim, and the lights and decorations were moved to one planted by Mary Simon in memory of her father. This one is also becoming unreachable, and in 2011, a new tree was dedicated in memory of Narbey Khachaturian by his family. So there were two trees, the smaller one especially for the younger children and covered with angel decorations.
Members of HCE met at the library in fall 2004 to make a chain of gold rings to go with that year’s theme of the Twelve Days of Christmas. The goal was set and achieved to make 1,400 rings to represent everyone living in Philo at the time. That chain has held up amazingly well but is beginning to fade, and the hope is that the same material can be found to make a new garland.
Activities on Dec. 2 will begin at 3 p.m. with new crafts planned by librarian Sue Hale and managed by library staff and many volunteers. At 4 p.m., Jean McCormick will lead in the singing of a few carols before everyone receives a bell to put on the trees. Then the magic moment, when Eckert signals for the tree lights to go on.
Whether the sky is clear or the snow is deep, the hot chocolate and cookies served by the Friends of the Library are always most welcome. Members of Philo Friends 4-H club and HCE also bring cookies that day.
And more pictures are always taken to be added to the now very thick book that is a record of every village tree since the tradition began in 1991.
- Margaret Khachaturian, Historian for Philo HCE