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Love, Friendship and, of Course, the Tree Mark the Start of Christmas in Frenchtown

Dec. 12, 2004 – If Christmas is about love and giving then Frenchtown was in the perfect state to kick off the season Sunday night with the "50-something anniversary" of the village's annual tree lighting ceremony. Allan Richardson, in his opening remarks, said he still didn't know in what year the celebration had first started.
As the speakers fought to be heard over the wild din of 100 children excitedly awaiting the inevitable arrival of the man in red, each spoke of the friendship and giving found in the little town.
None spoke as knowingly as Molly Morris, the only speaker not of French descent.
"I am not French," Morris, who was the main speaker of the evening, said, "But I've been completely accepted by this community."
Henry Richardson was clear on that point before the celebration began. "Molly's been here as long as I can remember," Richardson said. "She knows everybody in the village by name."
He recalled when the Christmas tree used to be placed on top of the building that now houses the French Heritage Museum, "Molly used to climb up there."
She didn't have to do that this year. She and Nishel Lawrence, Ms. Carenage, shared the lighting of the tree while standing on solid ground.
Morris, who has lived and worked more than half her life in the little town on the western edge of Charlotte Amalie, known at one time as Carenage, said her greatest joy each morning was to walk out her door and, "see all my friends."
Morris mentioned that over the years many things had changed including the buildings.
One building that changed dramatically for the better this year, was the very stone structure adjacent to the Joseph Aubain ballpark that Morris allegedly climbed all those years ago.
Once a would-be firehouse that never was, a kindergarten classroom, and a health clinic, the 60-year-old structure opened in July as the French Heritage Museum.
Both Odil de Lyrot, the French consul, and Sen. Lorraine L. Berry noted the significance of the completion of the project for the community.
De Lyrot thanked the Richardson brothers and others repeatedly for their efforts to keep French culture alive by working to make the museum a reality.
But the greatest enthusiasm came from the children. As choirs sang and speakers spoke the children danced and spun and squealed with delight in vibrant anticipation of Santa's arrival.
And when finally he did arrive he was laden, as if by magic, with just the right amount and type gifts for all of the children who gathered around him. The smiles and cries of delight were infectious, as children tore at the wrappings to see what was inside – dolls and toy trucks and everything in between.
The adults meanwhile had found their way to the booth where the traditional sweet breads were being offered.
And above it all stood the more-than-25-foot Norfolk pine tree donated by Margaret Brin and decorated by several French elves, with its twinkling lights heralding the start of the Christmas season in Frenchtown.
Morris seemed to echo the sentiments of those gathered in celebration best when she said, "I am so happy to be here among the people I love. Merry Christmas!"
The annual event is sponsored in full by the Frenchtown Civic Organization.
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