West Orange ushers in the season with annual Christmas fun

Published 12:20 am Wednesday, December 6, 2023

WEST ORANGE — The spirit of Christmas was alive and thriving at the West Orange City Hall’s annual tree lighting.

Gathering this week in the foyer and following a short prayer blessing the community, a cozy crowd nestled in for a reading of a Cajun rendition of The Night Before Christmas by Judge Carl Thibodeuax.

Children gathered Monday around his feet as Thibodeuax showed pictures of the story from his book, and pictures from the book played on the televisions in the room for the adults’ enjoyment, as well.

Performed with a thick Cajun accent and enthusiasm for the story, children and adults leaned in to listen.

Anna Bergeron, a member of the West Orange community, said she “comes every year to listen — it’s the best version. We love to come and watch the kids sit on Santa’s lap. It’s a good time.”

Mayor Randy Branch led the crowd outside for caroling around the tree, with an emphasis towards the kid that they needed to sing loud and proud for Santa to hear. Following a hearty countdown, the tree was lit, and local Youth and Worship Pastor Marissa Asevedo led the carols.

With jingle bells for accompaniment and parents encouraging their children to sing along, the carols finished off strong with a rendition of “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.”

Then, huddled in the cold and in the light of the tree, the faces of kids lit up as a West Orange fire truck came up the road, bringing the much-anticipated Santa right to the heart of it all.

He was greeted by a healthy crowd of families, mothers holding onto children with outstretched hands, eager to get their own first look at Ol’ Saint Nick.

Moving inside, children in Christmas pajamas and some not quite old enough to walk gathered in line to speak with Santa.

Refreshments of cookies, juice and coffee were being served, and the gentle mumble of the crowd blended in well with light Christmas music in the background. Every child got a turn with Santa and each was given small bags of treats and goodies from his gift bag.

Santa Claus, or Billy Moore as he’s known in some places, was more than happy to play the part.

“It’s about the kids having fun, and us protecting them,” he said and joked about being mistaken for Santa even without the hat and beard.

Moore was pleased to be able to provide that happiness to children.

— Written by Kylie Mugleston