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Downtown Boise Christmas tree lighting rings in the holiday season

On Friday, hundreds of families braced the cold and rain to celebrate a favorite festive tradition: the annual Boise Christmas Tree Lighting.

BOISE — On Friday, hundreds of families braced the cold and rain to celebrate a favorite festive tradition: the annual Boise Christmas Tree Lighting.

In the middle of Grove Plaza, amid a sea of candles, Boise Mayor Dave Bieter stood alongside a refugee family from Uganda and lit the tree - brightening the city and ringing in the holiday season.

"Just a lot of love and family. I've been bringing my kids down here since they were little, from the very beginning," one attendee said. "It's just family tradition. I just love it. I love Boise."

The 40-foot tall Norway spruce was donated by Dale and Doreen Eld. It was first planted on their family ranch up in Donnelly about 40 years ago. When they moved to Boise in the mid-90's, the tree was transplanted to their front yard. It grew so tall, the family had to remove it - so they donated it to serve as the city's holiday tree, and now it stands in the heart of downtown.

MORE: Christmas tree lighting at The Village at Meridian

It's a symbol of the season in many ways, but the donated tree serves an even greater purpose as the Giving Tree. Gift tags surround the tree, each containing a wish list item from the Women's and Children's Alliance. People can snag one of the tags, benefiting families at the shelter and donating hope.

"It provides us with items much needed for our shelter for the next three to six months. So this is a huge program for us. So we were really really fortunate and very honored to have such great support of the community, the Downtown Boise Association, and all our friends here in the Treasure Valley," Women's and Children's Alliance Volunteer and Events Coordinator Jennifer Spencer said. "[People] love the chance to participate because they feel they can give back even in the smallest way; they can grab that tag, make that purchase, and feel so good about what they're doing for all the women, children and men that we serve."

"We try to take a tag every year that we can," Boise resident Jessica Bruce said. "We feel it's important to give to our community and teach our children about giving and the true meaning of Christmas."

In this yearly event, the Treasure Valley again came together to embrace the true spirit of the holidays.

"I feel like Boise is truly a special place where people are really generous and come together as a community," Joe Bruce said.