The ceremony was open to the SHAPE community including the mayor and a delegation from Malmedy, Belgium and hosted by General Tod D. Wolters, Supreme Allied Commander Europe.
Since 1967, we have gathered here every year to offer thanks
"Over the years, this tree lighting ceremony has grown into a celebration of continued peace, freedom and friendship," General Wolters said. "Since 1967, we have gathered here every year to offer thanks, rekindle friendship and pledge our continued unity as we look forward to a prosperous future…together."
At the start of the tradition, the Christmas tree was a gift from the town of Malmedy to the United States Armed Forces expressing their gratitude for the city's liberation during World War II. Since then, it has stood as an example of SHAPE's commitment to the defence, security and freedom of the transatlantic region.
General Wolters and the Mayor of Malmedy Jean-Paul Bastin joined together to continue the more than 52-year tradition of lighting the tree.
"This tree is a symbol of the Malmedy's resilience and also of its gratitude toward the various international organizations, such as the European Union and NATO, which have made it possible for us to live in peace since 1945," said Mayor Bastin. "For us, coming here to see all these uniforms from the various countries, to see all the flags and hear the various languages being spoken, is the sign that the Allies of yesteryear can remain so, and that the enemies of yesteryear can become solid allies and work in such a way that our peoples can live out their lives far from the torment and tragedy of war."
The SHAPE International Band, together with the Canadian School Choir, performed traditional Christmas songs, and the SHAPE Chaplain gave an invocation and blessing as part of the ceremony.
"Charlene and I want to wish everyone gathered here today—the citizens of Malmedy and the entire SHAPE family—a joyous and safe holiday season filled with peace and happiness," General Wolters added. "We are all truly blessed to be part of such an amazing community, and we wish you all the best as we celebrate together this season."
The Christmas tree will be illuminated every day until January 2, 2020 from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and from dusk until 11 p.m. On Christmas Eve, the lights will remain on until dawn on Christmas morning.