Over the years, Brooklyn Square has come a long way. Once upon a time, it used to be home to a community which is now known as "the lost neighborhood."
And though the residents of the lost neighborhood are long deceased, descendants of those residents have kept the memory of the neighborhood alive by continuing to decorate Christmas trees in Brooklyn Square, just as their ancestors did.
"We still call this Brooklyn Square, but it isn't anything close to what it used to be," said Anthony Raffa, head of the Lost Neighborhood Committee. "A lot of the families from the old country settled here in Brooklyn Square. They shopped here where the city market was, and they lived here too. Every Christmas they'd put up a Christmas tree right here in Brooklyn Square. When they came in during the 1970s and renovated Brooklyn Square, a group of us decided that our parents worked too hard for their traditions to be forgotten. So we formed this committee and that's how we started."
A crowd gathers to share thoughts and memories following the lighting of the tree and singing of carols at the ninth annual “Lost Neighborhood Tree Lighting” in Brooklyn Square on Friday evening.
P-J photo by C. Ralph Heeter
The Lost Neighborhood Committee is celebrating nine years of lighting a Christmas tree in Brooklyn Square. Though the Lost Neighborhood Committee is responsible for organizing the event, the Salvation Army donates the land the tree is located on for use and the city is responsible for stringing the tree with lights.
"It's a nice affair every time," said Raffa. "We spend a couple of hours here we give away roasted chestnuts and soups and hot drinks. The point is: everything is free. People can come down here, have some chestnuts and have something hot to eat. There are some homeless folks that stop by and we make sure to feed them. We enjoy doing this immensely. We pay for it out of our pockets and we feel very good about it.
"Sometimes it gets to be emotional," continued Raffa. "You remember your parents and your neighbors you can't bring those things back. They were all generous, hard working people, and everyone took care of everyone. No one ever locked their doors and neighbors always looked out for each other. We can't ever bring Brooklyn Square back to being like that, but we can celebrate how it used to be. This is how we choose to celebrate."
Raffa concluded by saying that he was very happy with the turnout, and looks forward to keeping the tradition going for many years in the future.
"We can't afford to put advertisements out, but people still show up anyway," said Raffa. "It shows that they remember this neighborhood, and it shows that they care."