Hundreds of residents and visitors converged at the Paseo de Marianas in Garapan at exactly 6pm Saturday for the countdown to lighting a 30-foot Christmas tree to signal the start of the Christmas season on the islands.
Fourteen schools were well represented, with students and teachers standing by their decorated Christmas trees for the traditional 8th Christmas Tree Decorating contest.
The main tree itself stood at the center of the Paseo de Marianas and was illuminated by bright colorful lights and decorated with recyclable materials like aluminum cans and plastic.
“It is starting to look a lot like Christmas,” said one Saipan resident.
The Saipan Awa-Odori Team, who opened the night’s performances, joined PDM Promoters Inc. representatives and Marianas Visitors Authority personnel for the countdown that lit up the entire Paseo de Marianas.
Schools participating in the 8th Christmas Tree Decorating contest include San Antonio, Kagman, Tanapag, William S. Reyes, Oleai, Dandan, Gregorio T. Camacho, San Vicente, and Koblerville elementary schools; Green Meadow School, Golden Harvest International School, Grace Christian Academy, Mt. Carmel School, and Agape Christian School.
The annual competition aims to promote the importance of recycling by limiting students to using solely recyclable materials to decorate each of their 9-foot tall Christmas trees. Each entry will judged based on creativity and originality.
From paper plates to bottle caps, all of the ”green” decorated trees complimented PDM’s 30-foot tree as people enjoyed food sold by vendors and restaurants, performances by students, and games.
Saipan resident Herme Ablog shared that he and his daughter have been coming to the Paseo de Marianas since the countdown ceremony began.
“I come here every year to watch the nice performances and see who wins the Christmas tree decorating contest this year,” he said.
The three-hour event also featured displays of illustrations from elementary students from Rota and Tinian of “what Christmas means to me.”
The food, games, and performances made it an enjoyable night for everyone who attended but one of the most popular attractions was RNV’s 30-foot Christmas tree as ribbons and markers were made available for people to write down their wishes and tie them to the titanic tree.
“I wished for the families in the Philippines to be back to normal again,” one 7-year-old told the Saipan Tribune.
The 2013 Christmas in the Marianas celebration will also host a caroling competition this Saturday at the Paseo de Marianas and a Parade of Floats a week later, Dec. 21.
“We saw a lot more involvement with the schools, especially in the Christmas tree decorating contest,” Community Project team member Ryan Calvo. “We have more locals and tourist coming here and this is becoming a popular event. Every year people are looking forward to this and the variety of activities that we hold.”