Neighborhood Christmas tree brings Lansing neighbors together

By Josh Bootsma

LANSING, Ill. (December 24, 2020) – During a holiday season that has had its usual joy tempered by a global pandemic, some Lansing neighbors are bonding through the simplest of means: a Christmas tree.

In Lansing’s Oakwood Estates neighborhood, eight families came out in late November to decorate and appreciate a Christmas tree in the front yard of Oscar and Gina Rincon’s house. The moderately-sized conifer tree has been bringing neighbors in the area together during the holidays since 2018, when neighbor Connie Simon first brought the idea to life.

Christmas tree
From left to right: Lukas, Nicholas, Grandma Pita, Gina, and Oscar gather during the neighborhood tree-lighting ceremony on November 29. The tree in the family’s yard is a source of community pride for the neighborhood. (Photo provided)

The origin

“We started [the tradition] three years ago because one of our neighbors couldn’t get out because of health reasons,” Simon said. This neighbor lived across the street from the Rincon family, and can go out to her garage and appreciate the decorated tree.

“She stayed inside the garage, away from all the elements and all that, and it was wonderful,” Simon said of this year’s tree-lighting, which occurred on November 29.

“Special thanks to the Rincon family that always make it all so beautiful,” Simon said.

Christmas tree
The Rincon’s hearty tree was decorated in late November. The tree is intended to bring joy to the neighborhood, especially the neighbor across the street, whose health issues make her largely immobile. (Photo provided)

A Christmas tree for one neighbor, for all neighbors

The mobility-limited resident likely isn’t the only neighbor that’s house-bound this holiday season, however, as COVID-19 has caused residents to stay home more this year than perhaps ever before. The tree has always been for the whole neighborhood, but this year, that’s more true than in years past.

Christmas tree
A gold ornament was placed on the tree this year in honor of a neighbor who passed away in 2020. (Photo provided)

Simon knocked on doors this year to remind neighbors of the tree-lighting tradition, and although less families came out this year that in years past, she said, “It’s a wonderful feeling getting to see everyone and [it] builds strong healthy neighborhoods!”

Simon also mentioned a nearby neighbor passed away this year, and his memory was honored with the tree decorations. “We added a gold ornament, as he’s in heaven with the streets of gold,” Simon said.

In summary of the tree-lighting, Simon said, “With lots of love and social distance in place, our third Annual Neighborhood Tree Lighting went off without a hitch. Different, yes, however, ‘adjusting‘ is a part of growing.”