An early winter chill couldn’t keep scores of Hillers from congregating tonight on the lawn of Christ Ascension Lutheran Church, 8300 Germantown Ave., to get the holidays started early with a tree lighting ceremony.

After dozens of children greeted Santa — who rode to the church on an engine from the Wyndmoor Fire Company — 6-year-old Hiller Samantha Woolworth helped Santa and Chestnut Hill Community Association social vice president Jane Piotrowski flip the switch on the lights to the delight of all assembled. Chestnut Hill Business Association Main Street Manager Fran O’Donnell, the night’s emcee, provided the countdown.

The Circle of Trees has become a popular annual tradition, particularly for families with small children. There were cookies and hot chocolate, and children were given boxes packed with candy. On the sidewalk, U.S. Marines collected unwrapped toys for Toys for Tots, and firefighters from Wyndmoor Fire Company let children sit in the fire engine.

This year’s event was sponsored by the Chestnut Hill Community Association, Business Association and Business Improvement District. — Pete Mazzaccaro