'Tree of Hope' lighting at City Hall tonight

Wishes of peace from around the world will be illuminated on San Francisco's “Tree of Hope” this evening when the city's official holiday tree is lit up for the 2009 season.

The annual lighting ceremony will take place at 6 p.m. in the City Hall rotunda. Activities begin at 5:30 p.m. with a performance by the San Francisco Boys Chorus.

Mayor Gavin Newsom and the Rev. Nobuaki Hanaoka, a Nagasaki atomic bomb survivor, will officiate the tree lighting. Porter William, host of local show Entertaining People, will emcee, and actresses Rita Moreno and Sharon Gless will also attend, organizers said this morning.

The tree will feature 5,000 white origami cranes, each bearing a written sentiment of peace and hope from children and others around the world.

The tree is the work of the Rainbow World Fund charity, which collects the statements throughout the year. A team of origami artists, including survivors of the 1945 atomic bomb, folds the cranes.

The tradition has its roots in the story of Sadako Sasaki, a girl who survived the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and became the inspiration the 1977 children's book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. The story, and with it the origami crane, has become a worldwide inspiration for peace.

This year's tree will contain wishes from President Obama, anthropologist Jane Goodall, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Newsom and his wife Jennifer Siebel Newsom, Danielle Steel, and artist Stanley Gatti, according to Rainbow World Fund.

The tree is a collaboration between the city's LGBT and Japanese American communities, according to Rainbow World Fund. The organization describes itself as a humanitarian charity based in the lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender community, and their supporters.

A party featuring refreshments and singer Veronica Klaus will follow the lighting ceremony and will last until 8 p.m. The entire event is open to the public.

The Tree of Hope will be on display through Jan. 2.

The city's tree is not the only one that will be illuminated this evening. A 40-foot-tall evergreen at San Francisco's Ritz-Carlton hotel will be lit up at 6 p.m. today by 6-year-old Annabella State. The South San Francisco girl has pulmonary disease and is a beneficiary of the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

After the tree lighting, the hotel will host a small public celebration featuring costumed carolers, hot apple cider, roasted chestnuts, visits with Santa and other holiday treats.

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