Christmas in Milton is always a special time of year. This is the time of year that this historic town usually comes together to celebrate the yuletide season. But, because of coronavirus pandemic, we all could agree that this year’s pivot of celebrating the 2020 Christmas holiday is more meaningful and special than ever before. For instance, the previously well attended Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony that usually takes place at dusk on this celebratory day, was cancelled and replaced with a somber and reflective tree lighting.
The Remembrance Tree is the brain child of Milton resident, Tracy Williams. “When my mom passed last December, we had to put all of her stuff into storage, and had planned to have a yard sale this spring but that never happened (because of the virus). I remember her having a bunch of crafts and ribbons and stuff that I could use for the tree. My mom’s favorite holiday was Christmas, and when I got to the storage unit, there were spools of Christmas ribbon.” So when I found all of this ribbon, “to me, that was the message of creating a remembrance tree. That I have to do it. It’s meant to be. This is a tough process to go through. I hope that by writing a message to a loved one and tying it onto the tree, that it helps them through their grief process, especially during the holiday season.”
The Christmas Remembrance Tree in Milton is located in the grassy lot directly across the street from Aunt Millie’s. Everyone is invited to open the plastic box that’s located on the cement picnic table near the tree, select a favorite ribbon, write your special message to a loved one who has passed on, tie it onto one of the branches and return any unused ribbon and sharpie pens to the box on the table. If you are with others, please practice the prevailing social distancing rules as outlined by the state of NC.
Some background on the tree according to Jeff Williams, Tracy’s husband: “There used to be a cedar tree here (in the same spot as the current Christmas tree) that Oliver Yarbrough, the former owner of the Milton Tire and Grill, decorated every year. The previous mayor (of Milton) decided that it was too big and too tall to decorate. So, they cut it down. And, for a couple of years, they would go out and buy a (live pre-cut) tree, dig a little hole (in the ground) and decorate it. After a couple years of this I said that I am going to get one and plant it,” “so that we can carry on the tradition that Oliver started,” Tracy later chimed in. Jeff added, “I drove all the way to Jordan Lake near Durham to get a live tree to plant and it’s been here two years.”
The lights on the Christmas Remembrance Tree will be on each night from dusk until 11:00 p.m. Access to the ribbon box is available 24/7 from now until New Year’s Day.