Holiday revelers pack Centre Square for Peace Candle lighting in Easton
EASTON, Pa. — Eastonians and holiday enthusiasts from all over came together at Centre Square for the lighting of the iconic Peace Candle Saturday night, adding the final touch to the city's enchanting Winter Village.
At a tumultuous time in the world where conflicts are many, the Peace Candle serves as a beam of light and hope for a happy holiday season.
In an inspiring show of hope, people absolutely packed Centre Square for the event, putting parking spots at the pinnacle of a premium — even for the holiday season.
Garages were packed full, with residents and visitors waiting quite a while to reach the top only to find nothing available. And as for street parking, well, it's Easton, and as everyone knows, the Peace Candle lighting brings in plenty of people, so that was out of the question for blocks upon blocks around Centre Square.
Nevertheless, plenty of spectators did manage to eke out a space in order to explore the Winter Village and celebrate the season.
Keela Vincent, executive director of Family Connection of Easton, said the event was a beautiful gathering and an excellent show of humanity for the holiday season.
"I think it's a time for people to reflect and really think about what's happening in our world and ways that we can bring joy to one another.”Keela Vincent, Family Connection of Easton
“It's always a beautiful event. The lights are beautiful, there was a wonderful crowd, and everybody enjoys the pageantry and the music and all the great food,” Vincent said.
Vincent also noted the lighting of the Peace Candle was an excellent opportunity to reflect on how people can light up the world in the darkest of times.
“I think that the city of Easton makes an effort to discuss our diversity and recognize and appreciate it. I think it's a time for people to reflect and really think about what's happening in our world and ways that we can bring joy to one another,” Vincent said.
The visual reminder and call for peace stands 106 feet tall and is displayed in Centre Square from November to mid-January around the Soldiers and Sailors Monument.
Once known as the Christmas Candle, it was first lit in 1951 as part of an interdenominational program honoring those serving in the armed forces. At the time, the beacon was red and stood 75 feet tall, topped with neon yellow lights with a base encircled with evergreens.
Serving as a sigil of peace, a petition calling for the candle to be kept up until the end of the Vietnam War was introduced in 1972, though it was denied. In 1990, a petition to keep it going until the end of the Gulf War was approved, with city officials maintaining it until Feb. 28. 1991, when the base was adorned with yellow ribbons.
Naturally, a candle that’s been through decades of Easton history requires some maintenance. In the 1960s, Easton went without its inanimate luminary, thanks to several harsh winters deteriorating its plywood structure. It sat for five years in storage until residents requested to bring it back in 1966.
By 1968, it was clear the candle needed a more durable frame, and thanks to a new Fiberglas setup, it lasted until 1990. That year, the candle had an overhaul, with a new, white candle featuring blue wax drippings – believed to be the largest non-wax candle in the country.
The Peace Candle had another glow-up in 2012, when it received a $25,000 upgrade to its new frame, along with a fresh look – a white body with off-white drippings and red lights in the evergreens. Peace Candle shares were sold for $20 to help offset the cost of repairs.
Nowadays, the Peace Candle lighting has become a full-fledged festival with carriage rides, ice sculptures, gingerbread house contests and a visit from Santa, all in the midst of the Winter Village.
Since 2013, the Easton Main Street Initiative, the Greater Easton Development Partnership and volunteers have organized the Peace Candle Lighting and Holiday Open House event, which serves as a kick-off to the holiday shopping season in the Downtown district and coincides with Small Business Saturday.
City maintenance workers invest plenty of time in the upkeep of the Peace Candle, repairing and repainting it each and every year. Since 1981, Beatty Contractors, situated in nearby Nazareth, has hoisted the candle up with its crane at a reduced rate.
In 2009, the right to light the Peace Candle went to the highest bidder, a tradition that continues today. In addition, Light a Night sponsors donate $40 per day to help keep the candle lit through the holiday season, a tradition that also serves to honor loved ones, send holiday greetings, or promote businesses.
Easton City Councilmember-elect Frank Pintabone said the event was spectacular, commending Easton workers, volunteers, and a great show of a crowd for the highly-anticipated holiday gathering.
“I don’t know how many people were here, but I know the parking garage on Fourth Street was filled before 5 o’clock, so it was a huge crowd,” Pintabone said.
“I’m not quite sure how many actually came, but the crowd seemed bigger than usual, and there was great energy. The city does a great job every year, and the volunteers do a great job every year. It’s something we look forward to all year."