All the festive aspects of the Christmas season make up the fabric of the 22nd annual Croton Christmas Celebration: twinkling lights, decorations, classic carols, warm food, Santa and a giant circle of neighbors singing praise by candlelight.

All the festive aspects of the Christmas season make up the fabric of the 22nd annual Croton Christmas Celebration: twinkling lights, decorations, classic carols, warm food, Santa and a giant circle of neighbors singing praise by candlelight.

On Sunday, Dec. 7, the community will come together to celebrate the start of the season through this year's theme, "The First Christmas."

It's not the only time Croton/Hartford Village residents and friends meet during the year for old-fashioned community fun. There's always a traditional Memorial Day ceremony on the town square, and Hartford Village Day is held on the same square each September.

"This gathering is different because it has such a spiritual impact," said Dan Hamilton, minister at the Croton Church of Christ. "It's a uniting event, with everyone coming together to celebrate. It's become a great tradition to the start of Christmas in Croton."

The event begins with the Tour of Homes from 1:30 to 5 p.m. Horse-drawn wagon rides are available on the town square from 2 to 4 p.m. for $1 per person, and Santa Claus will be at the square from 2 to 3 while Cub Scouts decorate an evergreen there.

A dinner of soup, salad and dessert will take place at the Croton United Methodist Church from 4 to 6:30 p.m., with a Candlelight Service following at the Croton Church of Christ at 7:30 p.m.

Cost of dinner is a donation, and Tour of Homes booklets are available for purchase at either church or area businesses at $3 per adult. Proceeds of the Croton Christmas Celebration go to help needy families in the community

Stops on the tour are at the homes of:

Dave and Carla Wells, 387 N. High St., Croton.

Wes and Judy Baker, 345 N. High St., Croton.

Tony and Jennifer Ulery, 200 N. High St., Croton.

The Diner, Kathy Miley, 14 S. Main St., Croton.

Twyford Building, Inspired By Education, Jim and Michelle Zarzeczny, 23 S. Main Street, Croton.

Dana and Lisa Goodman, 11950 Crouse-Willison Road, Croton

Steven and Debbie Legg, 7458 Parsons Road, Croton.

For the Ulery family, Croton Christmas has been a favorite annual tradition that this year includes decorating help from the small but capable hands of sons Adam and Christian as the family prepares for hundreds of guests next Sunday.

The Ulerys' year-old home features a window wall with 33 windows overlooking a pond behind the house. A dining table that seats 24 serves as a tribute to the big family they have in the area.

"I've always loved Croton Christmas," Jennifer Ulery said, "because it's great the way everyone gets involved. I love that we can blend the kids and the choirs from both churches in town and just bring everyone together."

The Leggs built their Parsons Road home four years ago. It features a pond in front, a finished basement and an open layout inside. Debbie Legg said one of her family's favorite features is actually in the woods behind the house, where three beech trees boast carvings by the Parsons family from the late 1800s and early 1900s.

"I'm looking forward to this, to getting to know more people in the community," Legg said. "This area has such a small, hometown feeling. I would never move away. It's a great place to raise our girls."

Hamilton said the Candlelight Service will feature a combined community choir singing an arrangement of "The First Noel" combined with Pachelbel's "Canon in D." A combined children's choir will sing "With a Star That Bright," and the bell choir from the Methodist Church will also perform.

The evening ends when those in attendance form a large circle, hold candles and sing "Silent Night."