The holiday shopping rush on Black Friday paused briefly as hundreds gathered for the annual Christmas tree lighting and window display unveiling at Macy’s in Downtown Crossing.
For some, the festive ceremony provided a chance to catch a glimpse of Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh or New England Patriot’s tight end Martellus Bennett. To others, it was a time to dance and sing along to the music of Foxborough native JoJo or singer-songwriter Jacob Whitesides.
For many, however, the tree lighting was a chance for people to come together as a city after what many felt have been a fractured few months of intense political campaigning leading up to the presidential election.
“I’m trying to forget negative conflict on Facebook and stuff,” said Tod Trudeau, 33, of Revere. “It’s putting me in the spirit. The smiles, the lights, the twinkle in children’s eyes. It’s magical.”
After a performance of several Christmas carols by the Boston Children’s Chorus, District Vice President of Macy’s Philip Wilson addressed the spirited crowd.
“We are bringing the magic of Christmas back,” Wilson said. “When kids go on the Internet, they see a scarier story. Let’s tell the Internet how we all believe in Santa Claus.”
For 11-year-old Richa Gongaju, however, the event meant more than believing in Santa Claus.
“Everyone can put their differences aside,” said Gongaju, of Allston. “We can all come together. It’s a day you can see family members, spend time, and feel appreciated.”
Bostonians looked on with pride as the big pine tree was illuminated with colorful lights in the heart of the city’s retail shopping district.
“This celebration is a symbol of how the neighborhood has changed,” said Sharon Potenza, 71, said. “ It’s optimistic. Back in the 80s, [Downtown Crossing] was a combat zone. No one came here.”
“It means a lot to us to support our community,” said Tom Keady, 57, of South Boston. “We’ve moved away and came back. It’s important to come home.”
Keady’s wife, Deb McKie, said since they moved back to Boston, they like attending public gatherings organized by the city.
“We like to come to city events,” McKie, 54, said. “They’re doing a lot to make it more people-friendly.”
Visitors, too, reveled in the holiday spirit.
“It’s been a difficult 15 months for our country,” said Joan London, 49, who traveled to Boston for Thanksgiving with her husband, Walter. “ [Christmas] brings people together. It’s one of those wonderful traditions.”
Ronella and Paul Foti of Milford, Conn., attended the tree lighting for the first time, with their dancing toddler.
“It’s about family and being together,” Ronella Foti said. “We were just talking about this. It’s all about being together.”
Samantha J. Gross can be reached at Samantha.firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @samanthajgross