Amherst celebrates the season

AMHERST – Half-century-old traditions continued at the town’s annual tree-lighting festival last weekend, with food, music, a visit from Santa Claus and a performance of “The Nutcracker.”

Not strictly a Christmas celebration, the events are advertised for “any and all December and winter holidays that are celebrated by Amherst residents,” including Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, LaPosada, the winter solstice or the Epiphany.

But it was Christmas carols that rang through the Village green Friday night as the Souhegan High School A Cappella Singers entertained before Master of Ceremonies Peter Bergin introduced Santa and his elves. With great ceremony, Santa counted down to zero and lit the tree.

The a cappella singers sang old favorites like “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Silent Night,” and the hundreds of children and adults who gathered joined in.

The weekend also included a breakfast with Santa, the annual Village house tour, a Girl Scouts’ craft fair and cookie swap, a fire department pancake breakfast with Mrs. Claus and free holiday concerts by the town band, the a cappella choir and the Congregational Church’s choir.

Everything started Friday evening when hundreds of people came to the Village green for the actual lighting of the tree. Boy Scouts roasted chestnuts and served hot cocoa and the Amherst First Baptist Church served popcorn and homemade cookies. For those who were still hungry, the Lions Club had a spaghetti supper at the Congregational Church.

The celebrations was held on the World War I common, and Ann Bergin, chief organizer of the festivities, read aloud the names of those serving in the military who could not be there.

The new festival co-chairwomen for 2015, Michelle Arbogast and Dorothea Daniel, thanked Bergin for her years of service.