Christmas tree lights up Merchants Square

Merchants Square filled with crowds, caroling and lines to see Santa as the site featured its second annual Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony Saturday night.

“The turnout tonight is four times what it was last year. I’m thrilled to see as many people out here as I do see,” said Don Pratt, president of the Merchants Square Association and owner of Aromas. “This is something that I hope will grow in time.”

Merchants Square launched the event last year and ramped up marketing efforts for its second iteration. Carolers serenaded the audience throughout the night, Santa posed for photographs under the glow of the freshly lit tree and Aromas gave out complimentary hot chocolate while supplies lasted — which wasn’t long, given the turnout.

“We heard about this and we had to be down here,” said Bill Murdaugh, visiting from Pennsylvania. “We love the ambiance.”

He and his wife, Kim, try to visit Colonial Williamsburg monthly. It’s a special place for the couple, who first visited after they eloped 30 years ago.

Kim Murdaugh said she appreciated the lack of commercialism present throughout Saturday’s festivities.

“It’s amazing how many people are down here,” Bill Murdaugh said. “It’s a great place for families.”

Williamsburg resident Steve Seiler came out with his two children, hoping it would be a good opportunity to help his young daughter overcome her fear of Santa.

“It’s pretty cool to walk around and see the carriages run by and see the fall foliage,” he said. “It’s a pretty safe place to hang out.”

For Pratt, the tree lighting event represents a reminder of simpler times and an opportunity to celebrate the good all around us.

“There’s so much turmoil going on in the world these days that it’s important for us to stop and reflect,” he said.

Birkenmeyer can be reached by phone at 757-790-3029.

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