MARTINEZ, Calif. – A large tree with branches that provide a canopy over both sides of Morello Avenue will sparkle at dusk Saturday with hundreds of white lights during the annual Hospice East Bay Tree of Lights ceremony.
The Martinez oak that stands in the median of Morello Avenue is one of a dozen such trees that will be the centerpieces of lighting ceremonies that began 32 years ago.
The local custom originated with Win Haagensen, who set up a card table outside Danville Livery and Mercantile, where she urged passersby to contribute to Hospice East Bay, the not-for-profit organization that since 1977 has been providing care to those in their final months of life.
Eventually, the fundraising evolved into the tree lighting, with people sponsoring lights in honor of or in memory of loved ones. Some even sponsor entire trees.
Martinez’s tree lighting ceremony began in 1990. The story of how the Morello Avenue oak was chosen as this city’s Tree of Lights may have been forgotten, but its purpose is remembered each year, when crowds gather around the tree to honor and remember loved ones.
“People who attend a ceremony find solace in the symbolism of an illuminated light as the names of their loved ones are read,” President Cindy Hatton said.
“These ceremonies help us raise the funds necessary to provide our high level of care to everyone who needs it,” she said.
This year’s series of tree lighting ceremonies began Sunday at Brentwood City Park. Martinez’s ceremony is second on the schedule.
Of the others, the Pleasant Hill ceremony, at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 15, is on Gregory Lane near Cleaveland Road; Danville’s tree will be lit at Town Meeting Hall, 201 Front St., at 5:30 p.m. Nov. 16; Alamo’s tree, at Alamo Women’s Club, 1401 Danville Blvd., at 6 p.m. Nov. 20; the Rossmoor Tree, at Creekside Clubhouse, 1010 Stanley Dollar Drive, will be lit at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 27, and the Lafayette tree will be lit at 4:30 p.m. Nov. 29 at 21 Lafayette Circle.
Orinda’s tree, at Orinda Village near Bank of America, will be lit at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 1 as part of that city’s community holiday activities; so no names will be read.
The Walnut Creek tree, at John Muir Medical Center’s main entrance at 1601 Ygnacio Valley Road, will be lit at 6 p.m. Dec. 5; the Blackhawk tree on Blackhawk Road and Blackhawk Drive, will be lit at 5 p.m. Dec. 7; the Concord Tree, at the John Muir Medical Center parking lot, at East Street and Almond Avenue, will be lit at 5 p.m. Dec. 13; and the final Contra Costa County tree, the Moraga tree, will be lit at the Moraga Country Club, 1600 St. Andrews Drive, at 5:30 p.m. Dec. 16.
The Martinez tree has sponsors. Rudney Associates is its Sustaining Light sponsor; Peggy Hornbuckle is its Guiding Light sponsor and the city of Martinez is the Shining Light sponsor.
A memorial light can be dedicated for $30 or more. Donations may be made online at MyEvents/2018TreeofLights/MartinezTree/tabid/997635/.
Those interested in making donations may call the organization at 925-887-5678 or visit its website, www.HospiceEastBay.org, or may send donations to Hospice of East Bay, 3470 Buskirk Ave., Pleasant Hill, California, 94523.
The Martinez ceremony will start at 5:30 p.m. Saturday at Morello Avenue north of Arnold Drive.