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Metro

Boston tree lighting gets the holidays started

Evan Theroux, 9, of Smithville, R.I., watched as confetti fell on the crowd at the Macy's tree lighting.

Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff

Evan Theroux, 9, of Smithville, R.I., watched as confetti fell on the crowd at the Macy's tree lighting.

In Downtown Crossing, the holiday season began with the flick of a switch Friday night.

Macy’s lit its mammoth holiday tree on the Summer Street marquee of its downtown department store. Strings of white lights – bearing hundreds of bright bulbs – flicked on as children and parents shouted in delight and confetti rained on the roadway. For revelers, the annual celebration was a traditional break from the daily routine, an injection of vibrancy and Christmas spirit into the heart of Boston.

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“I like the people in the street,” said Silvano DiCostanzo of Revere. “I like the noise of these bells.”

Along with his family, DiCostanzo attended the Macy’s tree lighting for the first time Friday night. He said he appreciated how people on the promenade outside the department store smiled atone another as if they were longtime friends.

Singer Michelle Williams performed at the event in Downtown Crossing on Friday night.

Essdras M Suarez/Globe Staff

Singer Michelle Williams performed at the event in Downtown Crossing on Friday night.

A number of attendees were regulars at the Macy’s tree lighting, which is among several tree-lighting ceremonies in the city, including Faneuil Hall and the Boston Common, that take place each holiday season.

“It’s a nice day after Thanksgiving outside instead of cleaning the dishes at home,” said Alina Lisanke of Belmont.

Jimmy Wilson and Stephanie DeMarr of Roxbury brought their 4-year-old son to the lighting Friday. Wilson said he remembers growing up in Hudson and attending that town’s tree lighting with his mother. He said the town no longer puts on such an event, but he hopes the Macy’s ceremony will withstand the test of time for his son.

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“I hope one day he’ll want to do the same thing with his kids,” Wilson said.

The Macy’s event features music each year in addition to the tree lighting, and the department store also unveils its holiday window displays.

This year the band Honor Society and Michelle Williams, formerly of Destiny’s Child, performed at the event, which also featured retired New England Patriots linebacker Andre Tippett and former Boston Bruin Derek Sanderson . Boston Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis welcomed people to the event in place of Mayor Thomas M. Menino, who has been hospitalzed for weeks..

The lighting ceremony attracted dozens of people to Downtown Crossing, and some said they were pleased to see crowds in the city’s shopping district, which they said has apparently suffered in a national economic downturn.

Less than a half a block away from Macy’s, some storefronts along Washington Street are darkened or covered up. The hole where Filene’s used to be is nearby.

“This could be a great area but on a typical weeknight, this place would be empty,” said Jim Burbridge of Reading.

This year marked the third time Burbridge has attended the tree lighting. He was joined by his wife, Sara, and 6-year-old daughter.

“Maybe one of these days it will reinvigorate the Downtown Crossing area,” Burbridge said.

Keith Brown of Boston also said he hopes the event served as a promotion of the shopping district. He went to the ceremony with his wife, Sue, and their young daughter.

“Hopefully it encourages more people to get out to Downtown Crossing and support the local shop owners,” he said.

Sue Brown added that she thinks the annual tree lighting outside Macy’s brightens the mood and scene along Summer Street as the holiday season commences.

“I think Macy’s has done a lot to keep it festive in this area, because it can get depressing,” she said.

The lights from the Macy’s holiday tree, which came from a couple from Mansfield, leave a large section of Summer Street aglow in a warm white light.

A Macy’s executive, joined by Santa Claus, led the crowd in a 10-second countdown before the tree was lit Friday night.

When the switch was finally flipped, plumes of white confetti showered the crowd. Parents and children alike reached their hands skyward, trying to grab pieces of the shimmering paper.

And so began another holiday season as people welcomed the coming of Christmas.

“It doesn’t matter what you spend or what you have,” Sue Brown said, not long after a piece of confetti landed on the forehead of her daughter, who smiled widely.

“It’s just getting to see the kids excited.”

Zachary T. Sampson can be reached at zachary.sampson@globe.com.

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