An annual tradition was born recently at the East Aldine Town Center under a full moon and a spring-like breeze as kids made snow angels and snowballs in a pile of artificial snow and families feasted on free tamales.

Sponsored by the East Aldine Management District, the first Christmas tree lighting at the Town Center’s park and amphitheater drew more than 1,000 people for the lighting countdown, music performances, horse-drawn carriage rides, ornament-making, photos with Frosty the Snowman, and two giant “snow” slides.

There were tamale dinners, coffee and hot chocolate, and a nativity scene where children could dress in costumes as angels or shepherds, along with raffle prizes that included Christmas trees. Candy canes only added to the children’s excitement that culminated with a community sing-along of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

Not to mention the planned arrival of a real reindeer!

Christmas music from the popular Carver High School orchestra was followed by Aztec dancers, who danced wildly in native costumes under intricately beaded and feathered headbands.

“This is only the beginning of what is to come in future holiday seasons here,” said District Chairman Carlos Silva.

East Aldine board members “were making notes” for future events, Silva added. “We may need even more lights and more activities in the future.”

Marina Flores Sugg, a long-time East Aldine resident and community volunteer, said the event captured the essence of East Aldine.

“East Aldine has always had a little town feeling. And it still does,” Sugg said. “I think something like this event is great, because it keeps that small town feeling.”

Former District Chairwoman Joyce Wiley said she was pleased to see so many children having fun at the event.

“This just shows the connection in the community,” Wiley said. “We now have the facilities to have all these kids together, to enjoy all these activities together.”

Harris County Sheriff’s Sgt. Terry Garza, who worked hard to get donations from WalMart for the raffle prizes, let off a little steam from the pressure by jumping into the mound of snow to make a “snow angel.” She even went so far as to post a photo of her angel self on Facebook, with an apology to her bosses in law enforcement.

For the evening, almost everyone in East Aldine enjoyed acting like a kid. As families stood in lines for the horse-drawn carriage rides and kids of all ages sported crazy Christmas-themed headgear. There were light-up ornament headbands, antlers on baseball caps, sequined red bows, smart red fedoras, and plenty of Astros’ World Series caps.

“This is amazing,” Silva said. “We couldn’t be more excited that the community has responded so well. I never expected so many people.”

— by Anne Marie Kilday