SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ -The McCriskin-Gustafson tree lighting service was held this past Saturday on the front lawn of the McCriskin – Gustafson Home for Funerals 2425 Plainfield Ave South Plainfield, NJ 07080. The annual McCriskin Tree Lighting Ceremony has become a rite of passage for South Plainfield’s Holiday season.

Ricky McCriskin was the MC for the holiday event.  Matthew P. Anesh, members of the Borough Council and members of many of the local churches and civic organizations were all in attendance.  The Tabernacle Choir led everyone in singing and Christmas Caroling.  Santa and Frosty the Snowman arrived by fire truck as the evening’s event was concluding.

Following the tree lighting there was “Dinner with Santa” sponsored by the Borough of South Plainfield, the South Plainfield Lions Club and the South Plainfield Rescue Squad at the South Plainfield Senior Citizen Center.  The dinner was very well attended with proceeds from the event going to the South Plainfield Rescue Squad and the South Plainfield Lions Club.

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This year marks the 28th year of the McCriskin Tree Lighting.  The Tree Lighting was 1st held back on December 12, 1985 as a tribute to members of Task Force 3-502 101st Airborne Division Screaming Eagles who died in a plane crash in Gander, New Foundland. The men of the 101st Airborne – 248 paratroopers, were on their way home for the holidays to spend time with their families after participating in a Multi – National Observational Task Force that Monitored the 1979 Egypt – Israel Peace Treaty.

 The plane crash occurred after stopping in Gander, New Foundland to refuel. After doing so, during takeoff, the plane crashed into a mountain as a result of poor visibility due to snow storm. All 248 paratroopers along with 8 crew members all perished.

 The tree in front of McCriskin-Gustafson Home For Funerals stands nearly 90ft tall, and  was dedicated in remembrance of this tragedy and the ceremony has taken place ever since.

 Over the course of the years, the tree lighting attendance diminished as a result of residents relocating. Back in 2009 McCriskin’s decided to take the tree lighting ceremony in a different direction with the intention of creating a “town holiday celebration” but also paying tribute to the individuals that died in the plane crash.