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PHOTOS: Astoria community celebrates Christmas tree lighting in Athens Square Park

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Local Astoria community members and businesses held the second annual Christmas tree lighting in Athens Square Park on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

More than 100 people came out to celebrate the second annual Christmas tree lighting at Athens Square Park in Astoria on Friday, Dec. 3.

Community members gathered around the 35-foot tree from Pennsylvania, which was positioned directly behind the statue of Athena at the park, located between 30th Street and 30th Avenue, and will be on display throughout the holiday season.

The event kicked off with a prayer and speeches by members of the tree lighting committee, including Gus Lambropoulos and Elias Fillas.

Maria Markou Lambropoulos, center, addresses a crowd of over 100 people at the second annual Christmas tree lighting in Athens Square Park in Astoria on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)
Local Astoria community members and businesses held the second annual Christmas tree lighting in Athens Square Park on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021.

Fillas, the committee chair, explained they had the idea of a tree lighting last year, describing it as “really devastating” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We got together, a bunch of business leaders in the community and we started brainstorming ideas of what we could do to uplift the community a little bit, and we thought that this symbol … was a great way to uplift the community and to bring some cheer and joy to everybody in a year that was really very devastating,” Fillas said.

Before the tree was lit, students of Saint Demetrios Preparatory School performed a variety of Christmas songs, directed by Phyto Stratis, president and artistic director of Cyprus New York Productions.

Children from Saint Demetrios School sing Christmas songs at the second annual Christmas tree lighting in Athens Square Park in Astoria on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)
Children from Saint Demetrios School sing Christmas songs at the second annual Christmas tree lighting in Athens Square Park in Astoria on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

Entertainment for the night was provided by Cyprus New Productions, with a musical performance by Ariadne, Aggeliki, Louis Bluhart and Demetris Michael under the direction of Stratis.

Children sing along to Christmas songs at the second annual Christmas tree lighting in Athens Square Park in Astoria on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)
Performers sing and dance to Christmas songs in front of a freshly-lit 35-foot Christmas tree in Athens Square Park in Astoria on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)
Performers sing and dance to Christmas songs in front of a freshly-lit 35-foot Christmas tree in Athens Square Park in Astoria on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)
Performers sing and dance to Christmas songs in front of a freshly-lit 35-foot Christmas tree in Athens Square Park in Astoria on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)
Performers sing and dance to Christmas songs in front of a freshly-lit 35-foot Christmas tree in Athens Square Park in Astoria on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

To end the night’s events, Santa Claus was invited to come out to greet children.

Santa Claus greets children at the second annual Christmas tree lighting in Athens Square Park in Astoria on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

Maria Markou Lambropoulos, wife of Gus Lambropoulos, said there isn’t a better place to do something nice for Queens than Athens Park.

“We had a very difficult year,” Markou Lambropoulos said. “We lost people, we lost businesses … but we were tough because we are New Yorkers.”

Gus Lambropouls and Maria Markou Lambropoulos pose for a photo at the second annual Athens Square Park Christmas tree lighting in Astoria on Friday, Dec. 3, 2021. The couple are the founders of the ceremony that began in 2020. (Photo by Paul Frangipane)

More than two dozen local business owners and community members raised over $30,000 for the purchase, maintenance and decoration of the tree, according to Give Me Astoria.

Additional reporting by Paul Frangipane.

This story was updated on Thursday, Dec. 9 at 10 a.m.

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