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Old-fashioned Christmas celebration marks 30th year in Canton

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CANTON — The Christmas season returned to Canton on Friday with the 30th annual celebration of the Holiday of Lights.

Children and their parents braved the cold on a clear winter night to meet characters like Mickey Mouse, Gingerbread men and of course the man of the hour, Santa Claus.

Santa doled out free books and candy canes to every child he greeted.

The gifts and treats were provided through community donations, as they are every year. The event is organized by volunteers, as it has been for three decades.

“I think it’s a great community event, the kids love it,” said Brenda L. Snow, who has volunteered at the event for about 15 years.

It takes a lot of work to get everything together, but with a large group of volunteers pitching in, it isn’t too difficult, she said.

“Everybody has little jobs, and it all comes together,” she said.

Even families who have moved away from Canton still try to make it back to town for the Holiday of Lights.

Nikole M. Downing lives in Pittsford, but she still brings her children to the Holiday of Lights while they are visiting family for Thanksgiving.

“We try to come every year. Every year it seems like it’s freezing,” she said.

“I like seeing Santa, this is fun,” said her son, W. Ryan Downing, 8.

The snow glowed with the colored lights hung from two tall pine trees in the village green.

Families waited in line for a horse-drawn ride around the village in a carriage decorated with lights, then went inside the nearby Presbyterian church to warm up from the night’s single-digit temperatures with cookies and hot chocolate.

Jo Ellen Oshier sat inside with her granddaughter, Haley Oshier, 6, drinking hot chocolate. Ms. Oshier said she has been attending the event on and off for about 20 years. It started when her son Christopher was just 5 years old, and now she is bringing her grandchildren.

“You see the families, and the singing, and the togetherness,” she said.

Ms. Snow said the 30-year tradition hasn’t changed all that much since it started, and that’s a good thing. The goal, she said, is to create the feeling of an old-fashioned Christmas.

“It’s getting back to the old days, with something very simple,” she said.

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