VILLAGERS are finally flocking round their own Christmas tree after raising more than £3,000.
For the first time in decades, Ryhope village green has been spruced up with some festive fauna thanks to a community campaign.
In just five weeks, the residents of Ryhope have managed to raise £3,000 to pay for a Nordmann Fir tree to be transported from Kielder Forest.
Funds also paid to light the tree and for public liability insurance so that it can be a focal point for festive activities.
More than 1,000 residents turned out this week to see the mayor of Sunderland, Coun Stuart Porthouse, officially switch on the lights.
Chris Young, from Ryhope Community Spirit campaign, said: “This campaign has really brought the whole community together. Everyone has been so excited by it and we already have plans for future trees and are getting stuck into plans for next year.”
In the lead up to Christmas Day, the tree will form the backdrop to carol services from local schools and bands, including the Ryhope All Stars Jazz band and the NASUWT band.
As part of the fund-raising, people have been buying clear baubles for the tree which they have filled with messages to loved ones and Christmas wishes.
“The whole idea behind the baubles was to make it the people’s tree and people have really taken it to their hearts,” said Chris.
He added: “I think around 1,500 came to see the lights switched on, I’ve never see the green so busy. I never ever expected that many people to come along, I shed a tear when I saw them all.”
The tree will form the backdrop to a series of carol concerts over the coming weeks. They are:
•St Paul’s School choir on December 11 at 10am.
•Ryhope Junior School choir on December 12 at `12.45pm.
•Ryhope Infant School Academy choir on December 17 at 2.15pm.
•St Patrick’s School choir on December 18 at 2.30pm.
•Ryhope All Stars Jazz Band and NASUWT band, as well as a visit from Santa, on December 21 at 5.30pm.