3rd Annual Athens Square Park Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
by Gus Lambropoulos
It’s wonderful to have so many friends join us to celebrate the season and our diverse community. This year marks the first time a Christmas Parade marched down 30th Avenue to this location ’The Heart of Astoria”. This tree represents all the peoples of Astoria, Long Island City, and the neighboring communities. This season is about family, dear friends, celebrations, and events like this … Christmas Tree and Parade can act as a stimulus to bring new people to our area to experience all the great things that we have to offer, such as our eateries, shopping, various cultures, parks, and recreational areas, historic sites, and stunning views such as the east river from Astoria Park.
As many of you know, the space we enjoy today was renovated in the 1990s with the express purpose of creating a place for the entire neighborhood to gather. Those who led that campaign, including Mayor Dinkins and Council Speaker Peter Vallone, George Delis, George Stamatiadis, Dennis Tsinatillis, George Alexiou, and Chris Karastathis under Athens Square Inc., had it in mind to create “a little bit of Athens in Astoria.”
This is why ancient Greek culture is so notable here – especially the amphitheater and the statues of Socrates and Athena. Of course, a lot has changed in the decades that have followed, including the introduction of so many new and varied ethnicities and cultures into our Astoria community. Today numbering in excess of 124 different nationalities, this vibrant neighborhood is the most diverse hamlet in the most diverse city in the world. And it is absolutely delightful the way in which we bring all of these varied backgrounds together to celebrate and introduce some brightness into the darkest part of the year.
Perhaps this is why people from across the globe have joined us via YouTube, which reports the event received seven million views over the last three years. Some of you may remember that when we first held this celebration in the middle of the pandemic, it was originally conceived as simply a way to safely bring the Astoria community together at a time when we were all so isolated. However, as the restrictions have been lifted, we have been able to add more activities, including the parade that features the first horse and carriage to roam Astoria’s streets in over one hundred years! And which was televised live by ERT TV, NY 1, Cosmos FM Radio, and Facebook users, and others.
Quite a lot of time and effort went into decorating the largest Christmas tree in QUEENS, stringing these five-thousand lights, and getting that star on the top. I want to extend a hearty “Thank You!” to everyone who helped make our Christmas tree and parade so festive. On behalf of Maria and our children, I want to wish each of you a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Thank you. At this point, I also want to thank our FOUNDING Committee Members, Benefactors, and Sponsors.