Winter temperatures arrived just in time to make it feel like Christmas on Thursday at Harlem's annual Christmas tree-lighting ceremony.
"We tried to make it nice and cold so everyone would enjoy the hot chocolate," Mayor Scott Dean said. "We accomplished something."
Despite the cold, a large crowd gathered in the lawn of City Hall to hear Christmas carols from the North Harlem Elementary School chorus and watch the lighting of the city's tree.
"Oh wow!" said 6-year-old Haley Kingery, of Harlem, as her father, Phillip Kingery, held her to see the white lights on the tree turn on.
Haley's 3-year-old brother, Jacob, was shivering against the cold, but he burst into a broad grin as Miss City of Harlem Devin Baecher turned on the tree lights.
Haley was most excited to see Santa Claus, who was waiting to go over children's wish lists in City Hall.
"I'm going to ask him for a toy remote car," she said. "It can drive all by itself."
Santa made another public appearance Saturday during the city's Christmas parade. He was perched atop an antique fire truck with city leaders as children squealed and scurried for candy thrown to the crowd.
Harlem resident Dewayne Smoke, who said he has attended the parade for the past 10 years, brought his sons Lane, 6, and Avery, 8, to start the Christmas season.
Smoke said he returns to the parade each year to be with friends and watch his children collect candy. Avery, showing off a generous amount of Tootsie Rolls and bubble gum, said his favorite part of the parade was collecting candy and watching the Thomson Shrine Club spin their go-karts.
After the parade, pedestrian traffic picked up for the 35 vendors and city businesses set up along Louisville Street for the fourth annual Christmas in the Heart of Downtown Harlem.
Marilyn Whitten, of Harlem, and her granddaughters Bailey and Meghan Blair browsed the baked goods, Christmas ornaments and cookbooks at the Cora's Cruisers Relay for Life table.
"I live in Harlem, and I just love the community atmosphere," Whitten said of the parade and downtown shopping.
"I like to watch the parade and (look at) the arts and crafts," the River Ridge Elementary School pupil said.
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