By Aanisah Husain

‘Tis the season, here in College Park, and one neighborhood, in particular, is pulling out all the stops.On Dec. 3, Calvert Hills celebrated the start of the holiday season with their annual Christmas tree lighting. The festive event was bigger and better than ever, featuring an amazing dessert potluck, hot chocolate, and an enthusiastically caroling crowd. 

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Eric Maring and his son, Julian, perform at the annual tree lighting in Calvert Hills on Dec. 3.
Credit: Anton Van De Motter

Eric Maring, a foundation of the neighborhood since he settled here in 1999, brings out his musical talents in full for the traditional celebration.

“I’m a resident, and I value good neighbors and good traditions,” he said.

The Calvert Hills Citizens Association (CHCA) foots the bill for the annual tree lighting, but the real people behind the magic are Kelsey and Cameron Mays, who have organized the event since 2015.

“They’ve taken on the most Herculean tasks, so I want to give them full credit for making this happen,” said Dan Oates, CHCA president.

Cameron Mays chimed in: “We enjoy it, and it has become a tradition for our neighborhood and our family to do this every year. It’s our contribution to the neighborhood and to the city.”

When the Mays’ moved to the neighborhood in 2009, they had noticed that the celebrations surrounding Christmas were not as grand as they are today. Kelsey Mays reminisced on her childhood when she described an always lit Christmas tree in her parents’ neighborhood. When the Calvert Hills Citizens Association was looking for volunteers to head the Christmas tree lighting tradition, the Mays’ volunteered.

“I wanted my kids and the kids here to be able to experience the same thing,” Kelsey Mays said. 

“I think especially after 2020, everything was so bleak and so dark,” she added. “This has always been a source of light and enjoyment.”

The Mays said they try to center the tradition around children, from providing hot chocolate, creating a letters-to-Santa station and offering a photo opportunity with Santa himself. Although there was no Santa Claus this year, there was still an opportunity to take family pictures and congregate with neighbors.

Calvert Hills resident Bill Coleman enjoys seeing everyone come together to celebrate. 

“It’s always nice to do something with the neighborhood. I come and do the cooking, hang out and see everybody,” said Coleman, whose nickname is Barbecue Bill.  “It’s something that brings everybody together.”

The tree lighting is the celebration’s centerpiece every year.

“It’s magical to see the tree light up,” Maring said. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”