Friday night in Santee, the Christmas season was officially underway.
Thousands went to the Holiday Lighting Celebration, a tradition that is back after a hiatus because of the pandemic last year.
The Holiday Lighting Celebration brought larger-than-life characters, a real-life nativity scene and live music to the Santee Trolley Square.
Not to mention the festive crowds sliding back into a Santee tradition. Kathleen Stevenson was dressed up in green, red and Christmas-themed attire.
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“People are friendly. They’re happy. It’s good for people to get out,” said Stevenson. “When we first moved here. We are from Arizona, we went, 'Ehhhh.' And then now we have to go to it. It’s something we want to go to. We couldn’t wait.”
It all was a little sweeter this year after October's plane crash shook the community and the pandemic forced the event to be altogether canceled last year.
“To see people smiling and just to feel the joy of knowing that Christmas is here just in general. It’s coming and that we get to be with family and friends,” said Santee resident, Jessica Clark.
Lilly Hildebrand and her dad are part of Rise Church, which provided the snow slope for sledding.
“It’s great to see everybody out again. Because of the COVID thing I didn’t get to see anybody. And now everyone is out here and it's fun,” said Hildebrand.
Familiar faces for many.
“I love how it brings everybody together. It was COVID and now, COVID who?” said Kaylee Miller-Hale, who was dressed up as a Christmas tree while working the event.
Michelle Partridge, a Santee resident of 20 years, attended the event with a group of friends, including one celebrating a birthday.
“We love Santee and we come here every year,” said Partridge.
It’s a community that is bouncing back in time for the holidays.