Winslow Township held its annual tree lighting ceremony

The tree was lit at Miller’s Mulch and Santa arrived with a parade of police cars and fire trucks. Children had a chance to sit on Santa’s lap and give him their Christmas wish list.

It was a quiet night on South Egg Harbor Road in Hammonton until police cars and fire trucks roared down the street on Dec. 2. The cause of all the commotion was Santa, of course. He arrived at Winslow Township’s annual tree lighting ceremony at Miller’s Mulch along with hundreds of residents from the town and surrounding communities.

The tree was lit, hot chocolate and cookies were served, a toy soldier made balloons of all shapes and sizes for children, and the Winslow Township High School choir and orchestra performed entertainment throughout the night. Animatronics were set up to the kids’ delight, and they all had a chance to sit on Santa’s lap and give him their Christmas wish list.

This was the first tree lighting ceremony for the Anderson family, who moved from Philadelphia to Winslow Township in July. The youngest sibling, Brielle, had the biggest smile on her face after she was one of the first to greet Santa.

“I love Christmas a lot!” the 4 year old exclaimed.

She asked Santa for a dollhouse and a puppy, and her older brother Farrell Jr., asked Santa for a couple of games and Final Fantasy toys. Their parents are asking for something much more meaningful.

“My wish is, I’m hoping our oldest daughter (Diamond) will be able to come home for Christmas,” Farrell Sr. said. “She’s serving in the military in Lithuania right now.”

Santa and Mrs. Claus greeting the children.

Six-year-old Tyler Battista couldn’t stop dancing in front of the newly lit Christmas tree.

“We come every year; we love it,” his mom Angela said. “It’s become a little tradition. We love the sheds with all the displays and all kinds of animatronics for the kids to look at. It’s nice that Winslow Township does something like this.”

Battista said besides their annual tradition of going to the tree lighting ceremony, her family has others at home they do every year.

“When we put together the tree, we make sure we are watching Christmas shows while doing it and drinking hot chocolate,” she said. “We also make cookies for Santa every year.”

Angela Battista and her son Tyler, 6, of Winslow Township, pose for a picture in front of the tree.

Traditions are also very important to Cherry Hill resident Janelle Balfe.

“Christmas means being with my family, putting up decorations and being with my kids and baking cookies like my grandmom used to do when I was little,” Balfe explained. “Traditions are big with me, remembering what I did when I was little, and I’m trying to do that with my kids.”

This was the second year Sicklerville resident Amanda Reynolds went to the tree lighting ceremony. This year, she went with her 2-year-old nephew, Mason Wood, who couldn’t get enough of the balloon the toy soldier made for him.

“I just love all the lights and everybody is happy and cheerful,” she said. “My whole family gets together and talks about what we like every year.”

In addition to her family traditions, Battista likes donating gifts during the holiday season, and she said having a child makes everything more meaningful.

“Having a child, you see a whole different wonder in their eyes,” she said. “It means a little bit more when you see their wonder when they are watching all of this.”