With the end of Thanksgiving comes the beginning of the Christmas season. And Flowery Branch Better Hometown celebrated the commencement of the season with a tree-lighting ceremony and prayer service Thursday evening.
More than 100 people gathered at the Flowery Branch Depot on Main Street to hear the Johnson High School Brass Ensemble and Mount Zion Baptist Church choir perform holiday tunes. Of course, they all watched the city’s nearly 30-foot-tall Christmas tree light up in the cold November night.
"It’s great for the community; it’s bringing us together," said John Watson, a Flowery Branch resident. "We’re here with our kids, my mom and my wife, and we’re surprised that we’ve run into many people that we know — and they’re all (here with their) families."
Mary Jones, chairwoman of the event and a Flowery Branch City Council member, said that she had a lot of help from Better Hometown Director Dinah Wayne in organizing the event.
"I hope that this will be a tradition for Flowery Branch," Jones said. "You have to start somewhere, and I hope this will be done year after year. I was amazed that the first time we’d have this many people."
As the 10-piece Johnson band played classic carols such as "Silent Night" and "The First Noel," Hannah Kilgore, 9, said she was excited about the service. She had spent Thanksgiving with her family, making visits to see her grandmother and aunt.
"I’m excited about seeing the lights," Kilgore said. When asked what she wanted for Christmas, the Flowery Branch Elementary fourth-grader replied: "Christmas is about giving."
Benji Head, who plays baritone with the band, said he was glad to be a part of Flowery Branch’s tree-lighting ceremony.
"It’s an honor, really, for us because we’re so committed to band," Head said. "It’s kind of like giving back to the people who come to see us."
Head said that he thought the ceremony was great for the community, and that it was getting everybody into the Christmas spirit.
"Now everyone will go home and be in the spirit to put their trees up," he said.
The Rev. Emerson Ross from Mount Zion Baptist Church led a devotion that was followed by a performance by the church’s choir.
Under an almost full moon, the choir sang on the depot porch that was strewn with garland, Christmas lights and red bows. The church choir opened with the traditional ballad "O Come All Ye Faithful" and closed with "O Holy Night," featuring a solo by Better Hometown board member Janice Bryans.
Flowery Branch Police Chief Gerald Lanich had the honor of lighting the tree.
As the ceremony came to an end, Ross reminded the crowd of the true meaning of Christmas. During a short prayer, he sent the crowd home with one primary message: "You are the reason for the season, God."