Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation Celebrates Holiday Season with Annual Christmas Tree Lighting

Community members count down to the tree lighting at 46th and Damen.

Joy, peace, and the holiday spirit filled the air as Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation (PBMR) took part in gathering the Back of the Yards neighborhood for its annual Christmas tree lighting event on Tuesday, December 5, 2023 on the corner of 46th and Damen.

Local schools, community residents, the 9th District Chicago Police Department, and others came together for an afternoon of Christmas tree decorating and festivities. More than 100 attendees didn’t let the chilly temperatures and periods of rain dampen the day’s plans, as they sipped on warming cups of champurrado and filled up on a variety of tamales and conchas.

Smaller displays from William H. Seward Communication Arts Academy Elementary School, John H. Hamline Elementary School, Cesar E. Chávez Multicultural Academic Center, Agustin Lara Academy, and others filled the space as students, teachers, and principals decorated their trees with personalized ornaments. Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council (BYNC) Light In the Night Program Manager Oscar Contreras was the force behind organizing the event that aimed to promote community building.

“This is beautiful to see all the schools in one area and the police. My thing is to build a bridge in our community because it’s been broken,” Contreras said. “[…] That’s the best thing about these events, is that you have a community come together with unity.”

As the sounds of “Feliz Navidad,” “Jingle Bell Rock,” and other Christmas classics rang out throughout the afternoon, community members were gifted free items such as children’s clothing, tickets to Brookfield Zoo, and real Christmas trees to decorate in their own homes. Santa Claus and the Grinch made a special appearance to take pictures with the crowd.

But, as the sun set and evening settled in, it was the lighting of the main tree that truly stopped the show. Fr. David Kelly, Executive Director of PBMR, blessed the ceremony before the dazzling lights lit up the night.

BYNC Social Media Manager Esmeralda De La Luz expressed her excitement in seeing students come together to make lasting memories.

“[My favorite part] is the kids and their involvement. They don’t do this often. You don’t go decorate a tree and then have to do it with your classmates,” De La Luz said. “You got other kids from other different areas in the community. And then the teachers come out with them and help them decorate their trees. I think it’s really nice.”

The entire display can be viewed throughout the month of December.

PBMR is one of 13 Chicago organizations representing Communities Partnering 4 Peace (CP4P), a coalition of non-profit organizations focused on gun violence prevention across 27 Chicago neighborhoods. The event was part of Light in the Night, a CP4P program aimed at reclaiming public spaces.

To learn more about upcoming Light in the Night events, check the calendar here.

Christmas tree displays take over the space at the corner of 46th and Damen as Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation helps to host Back of the Yard’s annual tree lighting ceremony on Tuesday, December 5, 2023.