The City of Aiken is kicking off the Christmas season this evening with its annual tree lighting ceremony.

This tradition has been around for more than two decades and has grown over the years. It's a time for the community to join together with lit candles in their hands and get into the holiday spirit.

Participants will be offered free refreshments and encouraged to sing along to some Christmas carols performed by the Aiken Singers.

Santa and Mrs. Claus will also be there greeting the children.

City Mayor Fred Cavanaugh will be leading the festivities, and it's one of his most favorite events that he looks forward to every year.

“I've enjoyed it over these years, and it's always a fun time,” Cavanaugh said. “It's a fun way to get into the Christmas season.”

Cavanaugh loves every aspect of the event, but he particularly enjoys talking to the children and asking them what they're thankful for.

For Adea Jackson, City recreation program coordinator, this is her first year being involved in the event and she said she's pretty excited about it. Jackson appreciates the fact that the children are so involved in the tree lighting. She said it's a great night for families to spend together and enjoy.

“It's a very warm time, even though it's cold, it's a warm time to be thankful for what we have as a community and as individuals,” Cavanaugh said.

The event is today and starts at 6:30 p.m. with the mayor's introduction and welcoming. It will be held at the center of Laurens Street and Richland Avenue in downtown Aiken.

The Smith-Hazel Recreation Center will also hold its annual tree lighting Tuesday evening starting at 6:30 p.m. in the main lobby. Christmas carols and free refreshments will be part of that event as well.