January 20, 2022

Holiday season comes to light

Cortland unveils annual Christmas tree

Sarah Bullock/staff reporter

A crowd gathered to watch the annual Christmas tree lighting Saturday outside City Hall in Cortland.

Christmas carols, flashing lights and Santa marked Cortland City’s Christmas tree lighting Saturday evening outside City Hall.

A small group of about 30 braved the mid-20 degree temperatures to sing carols and greet Kris Kringle.

A tall pine tree in front of City Hall was lighted brightly for only a moment before it fell to the same fate as many private trees every year: a bulb went out and the tree went dark.

But the children hardly seemed to notice. For them, the candy canes, carols, snow and Santa seemed to be enough.

Saturday’s event was the first time some of the children attended a traditional holiday gathering like the ones held before COVID-19, while for others it was their inaugural city tree lighting.

“It’s my first time!” yelled one little girl before the singing began.

It was also the first time for 3-year-old Teddy Behnke of Cortland.

“It was nice that this happened again,” said his mother, Kris Behnke. This was also the first year Teddy went trick-or-treating and he is enjoying this time of new experiences, Kris Behnke said.

The highlight of Saturday’s ceremony for Teddy was when Santa rode past in the passenger seat of a Cortland fire truck, waving and ho-ho-ho-ing from the window, she said.

“He was very excited that Santa was working with the firefighters,” Kris Behnke said of her son.

When asked what she enjoyed most, Rosie Behnke, 6, answered: “The tree!” That was before she made a snow angel in front of City Hall, which the three onlooking adults admired.

Before the tree was lit, the gatherers sang “Jingle Bells,” “Frosty the Snowman” and “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”

Chief Assistant District Attorney Christopher Simser used his keys to make jingle bell sounds. No one sang in tune, but no one complained.

“I’m excited for us to be out here,” Mayor Tobin told the carolers, “and, even if it is a little chilly, to enjoy each other’s company.”