Union Square tree lighting thrills festive onlookers, helps charity

An estimated 5,000 spectators filled Union Square on Friday night to witness the annual tree lighting as The City’s Christmas season officially kicked off.

The tree, purchased by Macy’s and donated to The City, was lit at 6:26 p.m., prompting resounding applause from the holiday revelers.

It was the 17th straight year that Macy’s presented San Francisco with a tree, which this year is an 83-foot California white fir grown in the Carlton Tree Farm near Mount Shasta.

“It’s our way of giving to this great city,” Macy’s community director Laura Heffron said. “It helps us embody the holiday spirit that always shines through here.”

Former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, filling in for an absent Gavin Newsom, was joined by fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White and police Chief Heather Fong as they led the crowd in the countdown to the lighting.

Robert and Dawn Langefels, accompanied by their children Nick, 12, Emily, 7, Sarah, 4, and Samuel, 2, journeyed from Livermore to see the festivities, the 10th year in a row the family has attended the event.

“It started out as a fun trip into The City,” Dawn said. “But now it has become something of a family tradition.”

The 1,500 ornaments adorning the tree have taken on an added significance as the result of a donation program between Macy’s and UCSF Children’s Hospital.

Donors can now purchase a bulb on the tree, with the proceeds benefiting programs that help parents deal with the grief of a lost child.

Since the bulb donation program began in 2003, the proceeds have amounted to more than $700,000. Bulbs can still be purchased this year through the UCSF Web site.

Bob and Cheryl Stayton, who lost their 5-month-old son Jared to a rare auto-recessive genetic disease that afflicted his kidneys, are one example of a family that has benefited from the charity’s proceeds.

Through the Compass Care Program administered by Children’s Hospital, the Staytons have gained valuable assistance in dealing with Jared’s loss.

“This program has helped us answer many things we couldn’t have ourself,” said Bob, who, along with his wife and daughter, Julia, stood side-by-side with Willie Brown during the tree-lighting countdown. “We were able to process everything that happened, and honor the impact Jared had on everyone in his short life.”

Bay Area NewsLocalTransittransportation

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

Giants second baseman Donovan Solano scores on a double in the seventh inning against the Dodgers at Oracle Park on July 29. (Chris Victorio/Special to The Examiner)
Will the Giants make the playoffs? Kris Bryant may be the answer

By Chris Haft Special to The Examiner You’d be hard-pressed to find… Continue reading

Tiffany Carter, owner of Boug Cali West Coast Creole Shack in San Francisco’s La Cocina Marketplace, was dismayed by gentrification she found when she returned to her hometown to start a business. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
SF Black Wallstreet: Helping residents build wealth, reclaim spaces they’ve had to leave

Tiffany Carter moved back to her hometown of San Francisco five years… Continue reading

A prescribed fire at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks was conducted in June 2016 to reduce hazardous fuel loading, increase watershed health, and restore the natural fire cycle in the Redwood Canyon area ecosystem. (Photo courtesy Rebecca Paterson/National Park Service)
Experts, UC scientists discuss wildfires in the state’s riskiest regions

Wildfires are nothing new in California’s history, but the magnitude and frequencies… Continue reading

Fourth-grade students at Lucerne Valley Elementary School don masks and Western wear for a “Walk Through California” history day during in-person instruction. (Courtesy of Krystal Nelson)
Confusion over mask mandate for California schools sparks tension between districts and parents

By Diana Lambert EdSource Shifting rules around mask mandates at schools are… Continue reading

In his extensive filming of The City during the pandemic, Eric Goodfield said he has been “observing how the environment affects the behavior of people.” (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Filmmaker Eric Goodfield fixes lens on SF’s COVID days

140 days of shooting in The City made for ‘greatest adventure’

Most Read