MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- id="newsbody">Santa Claus visited Tarawa Terrace with Mrs. Claus and a few of his elves to spread some early-December Christmas cheer to Marine families during the annual Tarawa Terrace Holiday Tree Lighting Ceremony aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune’s housing community Dec. 1.
Many families swarmed to the community center at 6 p.m. for an evening of enjoyment and jubilee with others in the neighborhood, all while giving young children an opportunity to have fun and meet Santa.
Lorraine Fuller, a recreation specialist at the Tarawa Terrace Community Center coordinated a fun-packed night for people of all ages, but with a specific focus on the children.
“We put on this event every year to celebrate the holiday season and all the festivity it brings,” said Fuller. “We do it in the beginning of December just to properly kick off the month. We also do it this early so the families leaving for the holidays later in the month can still enjoy this event.”
More than 350 residents showed up in support of the tree lighting with their coats, earmuffs and holiday spirit. Hot chocolate and cookies were also provided by the community center for those who dared to brave the cold weather.
As people piled onto outdoor bleachers waiting to light up the tree and meet Santa, Fuller asked children which Christmas gifts were at the top of their wish lists. The enthusiastic children had no shortage of presents in mind, naming off everything between action figures and iPhones.
As the evening progressed, and children awaited Santa’s arrival, Fuller passed out song sheets to the young ones, and even some parents were weren’t afraid to let their voices be heard as they sang tunes like “Jingle Bells” and “Let it Snow” to pass the time. Many kids even had bells and rang them as they sang along to the well-known Christmas melodies.
When Santa showed up, parents and children circled the community center’s holiday tree as it lit up with Christmas lights, which was followed by a resounding ovation by the residents. They then packed the gym inside the center to get family pictures, meet Santa Claus and watch “The Polar Express.”
In addition to meeting Santa and watching a movie, arts and crafts were also available in the gym, giving children the opportunity to be creative while they waited for their picture with Saint Nicholas.
“(This event) is important because it’s an opportunity to get the family out and do more than just go to the mall and see Santa,” said Fuller. “We’re coming together as a community and socializing with neighbors. It has a little more depth to it than just a photo. The kids have a blast singing together, even if they don’t know all the words.”
The Dance With Me academy also put their dancing abilities on display, performing a few recitals for the event patrons throughout the evening.
Fuller said the ceremony is fun time for neighborhood residents to build a fellowship with one another.
“The volunteers love entertaining the children,” said Fuller. “We have a very motivating staff here who loves to hold events like these.”
The children were very grateful Santa took time out of his busy schedule to come see them, and the community center it was the best way to begin the month of December.