NEWTON GROVE — The 14th annual Christmas tradition in the town of Newton Grove was held Monday evening at the Circle of Lights ceremony, which started shortly after dark in the town’s famous circle. The ceremony has become a tradition for the town, noted for its circle where crepe myrtles adorn the heart of the small town and are lit each year to bless the hearts of its citizens as they prepare for the Christmas holidays.
Sue Vernon and Gail Darden, co-chairwomen of the Circle of Lights committee, said they are proud to continue to make memories that enrich the lives of all in attendance. The ceremony each year is filled with many activities that represent the symbols of Christmas.
“The Newton Grove Circle of Lights is representative of many things — of love, of honor, of cherished memories. And like a circle, it has no beginning and no end. It is unity, shown through the support of the Newton Grove Area 100 Committee and the participants who gladly financially support the lighting of 31 trees and angels around the circle. Newton Grove and the surrounding community is an area this is willing to work together for the good of the whole, and comes together every year the Monday night before the Newton Grove Christmas Parade to light the trees on the circle,” asserted Vernon.
It is, she stressed, a Christmas tradition that began in 1998 and once again this year “lights up the circle and the hearts of the community of Newton Grove.”
The idea to decorate the crepe myrtles, all 31 of them, on the circle in Newton Grove came from Darden and Vernon who were board members with The Newton Grove Area 100 Committee. They are both also long-time employees of First Citizens Bank in Newton Grove.
The participants that support “The Circle of Lights” give $100 the first year and $25 each year thereafter and have a sign placed on the circle in memory or honor of a loved one at a very special time of the year. There are now 75 participants. All funds collected are used to support the lights and upkeep of the circle. Businesses like TMS, Inc., Hog Slat, Cecil’s Exxon, and the town of Newton Grove lend support in decorating and presentation of the tree lighting.
Vernon noted “ The community of Newton Grove takes great pride in the tradition of The Circle of Lights. We are told from many participants how much it means to ride around the circle and see the angels and trees all in lights along with their sign remembering a loved one. Also, I have heard that some children enjoyed the lights so much that they cried at the end of Christmas when The Circle of Lights have completed the season and are once again a memory to be brought back again next year,” added the co-chairwoman.
Darden said “The Circle of Lights is now a tradition in Newton Grove that we look forward to each year. On Monday night, we had entertainment from Brent Hood, who sang a melody of Christmas carols and songs.The Rev. Dustin Bannister, of Oak Grove Church did our invocation and also gave meaning to our Christmas season. Our Circle of Lights tree lighting ceremony is always so special and is always held the Monday before the Newton Grove Christmas Parade, which will be on this Saturday, Dec. 1. We appreciate all who attended the Tree Lighting ceremony and please come out to enjoy the Christmas Parade,” asserted Darden.
The ceremony is far-reaching and is not limited to the residents of Newton Grove.
“It does not matter if you’re not from Newton Grove; it doesn’t matter if you didn’t designate a tree or angel. What matters is that, as a community, we come together. Surely those who attend find themselves with a special blessing all their own, a blessing that is not necessarily about being entertained, but about a feeling all will surely get as the names of loved ones and those honored are remembered during the Circle of Lights ceremony,” stressed Darden.
During the ceremony, the more than 80 names for which the trees and angels have been given in memory or honor of will be read aloud and are posted on the signs erected among the trees and the lights. Breaks between the reading of the names, will feature live music presented by a local entertainer. Concluding the name recitations, the participants all sang “Silent Night” and a count down for the lighting begins.
Vernon and Darden both echoed that this is a grand way to begin the holiday, but, more importantly, it is a tremendous way to show love for those special people in our lives, a brightly shining tribute that honors and memorializes and makes all those who ride by — and understand the meaning of the lights — feel a sense of peace, hope, and serenity.