Back in 1879, the emerging hamlet of Spokane Falls held its first public Christmas celebration at the newly constructed California Hotel on the corner of Howard and Front, now the site of the Looff Carrousel. Through the years, the exact location of the community celebration has moved around some, but the focus shifted back to the area around the original site with the development of Riverfront Park for Expo '74. The energy crisis of 1973 curtailed many of the street decorations that year, in an effort to conserve electricity, and the environmental spirit extended to the Christmas tree. News reports describe the 1973 tree as "the world's first recyclable Christmas tree," a construction made of a 120-foot cedar pole and 40,000 aluminum cans.
Times may change, but the spirit of the tradition has remained the same. Spokane's community Christmas tree, a tall Douglas fir, lives all year around in Riverfront Park at Spokane Falls Boulevard and Wall Street, just a block away from that first celebration 123 years ago. Each year since 1976, the tree is dressed in holiday finery for the season. The 2002 Christmas Tree Lighting will take place at 4:45 pm on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, with carolers singing favorite holiday selections. Then, follow Santa and his team of real, live reindeer through downtown to River Park Square for the lighting of the giant Christmas tree in the mall's atrium.
At the event, hot chocolate will
be available for kids, along with reindeer noses. Children can get into the spirit and prepare for the march from 2 to 4 pm Friday by making reindeer antlers at the Children's Museum of Spokane. Also on Friday, the special Downtown Holiday Windows will be revealed at the Burlington building, the Bon Marche, Crescent Court and Auntie's Bookstore, as well as all the other downtown businesses competing in the window-decorating contest. And don't forget the free Horse & amp; Carriage rides through Downtown (Fridays, 3-8 pm; Saturdays and Sundays, 12-5 pm), plus the carolers, dancers, and musicians who'll provide entertainment