NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - New Brunswick will light up the downtown City Center this holiday season, and it all starts this Friday, Dec. 6, with the 27th Annual Tree Lighting, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Monument Square.

Live holiday music, a holiday craft market, toy drive, cook-off competition for a cause, a special visit from Santa Claus and friends and more are planned.

The Roosevelt School Choir, Paul Robeson Community School for the Arts - Academy Strings, Paul Robeson Community School for the Arts - Dance, Livingston School Choir, Lincoln Annex School, and the Paul Robeson Community School for the Arts – Choir will perform.

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The Crossroads Theatre Company will give a performance from “A Christmas Carol” and the American Repertory Ballet will give a performance from “The Nutcracker”.

Special appearances include Guitaro5000 performing a mash-up of holiday music.

Mayor James Cahill, event sponsors and even Santa himself will make an appearance. So will Olaf from “Frozen" and Rocco the Ram. They will be on hand for photos throughout the evening. You can even make memories by taking home a souvenir photo from the City Center photo booth, and everyone will enjoy browsing the holiday market located inside the lobby of the NBPAC.

The Annual Cook-Off Competition will be held Friday from 5-6:30 p.m. Donate $2 for a tasting kit and sample all the special chef-created recipes from Blackthorn Restaurant & Irish Pub, Destination Dogs, Fritz's, Harvest Moon Brewery & Cafe, Redd's Biergarten and Glass Woods Tavern at the Hyatt Regency, while supporting Elijah's Promise. Vote for your favorite recipe and take part in selecting the People's Choice Award.

Furry friends dressed in Holiday style can be entered in the Howl-idays Pet Costume Contest.  Sign up by 6 p.m. to be eligible to participate and compete for prizes in various categories.

The United Methodist Church at New Brunswick at 323 George St. will be open for visitors to explore its holiday wonderland and sample some hot chocolate.

Those attending the event are asked to bring a new toys, a winter accessory (coat, hats, gloves or scarves) or non-perishable food item to bring a smile to a child’s face. There will be drop-off locations throughout New Brunswick City Center.

The Annual Holiday Drive runs through Dec. 18, collecting new toys, winter accessories and coats, non-perishable food and paper products supporting local organizations throughout New Brunswick. Donations can be made at these locations:

  • City Market office, 109 Church Street; all donations accepted
  • George Street Camera Shop, 344 George Street; all donations accepted
  • Tavern on George, 361 George Street; all donations accepted
  • Investors Bank, 385 George Street; all donations accepted
  • Amboy Bank, 350 George Street collecting non-perishable food items;
  • The Bank of Princeton, One Spring Street collecting paper products - paper plates, spoons, forks and napkins along with dry goods- rice and pasta (no cans)
  • City of New Brunswick office of the Mayor; accepting new coats

The festivities continue with horse-drawn carriage rides Dec. 20, 21 and 22 from 4-6:45 p.m. The meeting place will be on Neilson Street by the Hyatt Regency. Each vis-a-vise carriage ride will travel up Church Street, along George Street, taking in the sounds of holiday music in the air as the carriage travels under the festive holiday lights and pass the Christmas tree.

The ride will then travel along Liberty Street and return to Neilson Street.

The trip is about 15-20 minutes and participants are asked to donate a new toy per ride.