“We’re doing that.”

Shelby Frye, Malena McClory, Sarah Siegel and Isabella Bocija watched as two black horses passed by pulling a carriage embellished with evergreen branches, Christmas lights and red bows.

“Where do we get in line?”

They consult a nearby sign post that looks as if it’s straight out of a cartoon Christmas special, complete with multicolored arrows listing different activities in bubble letters.

Before getting in line, they grab a cup of free hot chocolate before it would inevitably run out. It was only 50 degrees —  warm for Ohio in December — but who could refuse free hot chocolate?

Well, Shelby could. Her dislike of chocolate is well-known and frequently questioned among her friends.

They stand in line for the carriage ride with a mix of other college students and families with children. A mother and father stand in front of them with their two children: a little girl dressed in all purple with a pink hat and a little boy in jeans and a Bengals jacket.

They watched the little girl as she grabbed onto the rope marking the line of people eagerly waiting for the horses to return. They marveled at how cute she is. It isn’t every day that college students get to see people younger than 18.

She caught their gazes and ran to bury her face in her mother’s legs, and then reached her arms up asking her mom to pick her up.

“Are you being bashful?” the mom asked her daughter. The little girl lifted her face tentatively from her mom’s shoulder, and then quickly turned away when she saw the group still staring.

After a few more rounds of rides, it was their turn.

The groups toward the front of the line piled into the carriage. Malena was the last of the friend group to get on, and there was just enough room for her on the bench if they squished, but instead, the woman in charge of the ride standing at the back of the carriage let her sit in front next to the driver.

As the carriage rounded the corner onto the backroad leading to High Street, the woman pulled two mini teddy bears from her coat pocket and gave them to the little boy and girl.

“Thank you!” they both chirped, hugging the bears to their chest.

Naturally, this prompted more “awws,” but the children were too invested in their new gifts to worry about the older kids watching them now.

In true holiday spirit, everyone was excited to see the gift of giving.

Their next stop was to see the reindeer.

Parents crouched down next to their children outside of the red metal enclosure asking whether they thought the two reindeer were Dasher and Dancer or Donner and Blitzen.

The girls all reached down to pet their slightly dirty white coat. Shelby thought they were cute, even though they smelled bad.

At 6:30, sirens barrelled toward Uptown park. Wandering college students turned their heads toward the noise, figuring that this was just a response to the typical weekend activities. But the children knew that the sirens meant something different.

An Oxford Fire Department firetruck pulled over on High Street, and children ran up to greet the one and only Santa Claus.

Santa walked up onto the stage in front of the park and waved to the kids eager to be in his presence. He was there to do a task that only Santa could do.

He ceremoniously flipped the large switch on the stage and all of the trees lining the streets of Uptown Oxford were illuminated. Dozens of little white bulbs brought life to the bare branches. The Uptown strip, already bright with street signs and passing headlights, became even brighter.

It’s a simple thing, but it’s enough for Oxford residents young and old, old and new, to turn their heads up and smile for the start of the holiday season.