TOWNSEND — As the sun set on Townsend Common, the darkening winter sky was ringed by a faint red glow visible through the trees. Holiday lights began to wink from the churches and businesses surrounding the green.

The scent of evergreen from the Lions Club Christmas tree sale drifted through the evening. A group of warmly dressed people encircled the lit gazebo, filled with the singers.

By the time of the ceremony hundreds had gathered on the Common, an inch of snow crunching underfoot. Youngsters ran around the fenced area while adults socialized.

No one was quite sure when the Christmas tree lighting tradition began on the common, but this year it was a scene for a 21st century Norman Rockwell.

It’s a night of fellowship according to Lee Hughes a member of the Townsend Ecumenical Organization. The TEO and the Townsend Business Association co-sponsor the event each year.

Everything that evening was provided by the community, from the tree to the dinner. All were encouraged to join in.

A group of at least 40 girl scouts and other women sang nonstop holiday songs in the crisp air during the half hour before the Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

Clergy from four of Townsend’s churches gave readings and led prayers and singing from the gazebo before the lighting.

Kayla Bardell was chosen to flip the switch. She won the lucky prize hidden in the gifts the TEO distributed to the crowd.

While many items were donated by local businesses, the people at the ceremony were responsible for providing their own fun afterwards.

Performing groups from the four churches held a program in the packed sanctuary of the Methodist Church once the tree was lit. The over 200 attendees stood and sang carols along with the choirs.

Lee said the hobo stew served after the musical program was made by members of the congregations. All of the food would be put into one big pot, mixed together and served.

The TEO organized the festivities and food. The TBA was responsible for getting contributions.

Marcia Arsenault, the current secretary of the TBA, said the group donates $25 each month to the Cemetery and Parks Department to help pay for lights on the common. In December they donate $50.

The D.J. Hussey farm contributed the tree.

Other businesses made special donations for the evening. McNabbs Pharmacy, Apple Meadow Hardware, the Messenger, Bender’s, The Unique Boutique and PC Lan contributed gifts and decorations.