The area in and around the Arbutus Town hall bustled with activity on Nov. 30 as the Christmas season began with the traditional Saturday evening arrival of Santa Claus.

This year's holiday event, hosted by the Arbutus Business and Professional Association, featured the theme of "It's a Wonderful Life in Arbutus."

Inside the hall, tables were filled with stickers, markers and glue as children of all ages decorated birdhouses while they waited for Santa to arrive.

Free popcorn was popping and cookies were served while the Girl Scout Chorus of Central Maryland sang Christmas carols and children waited patiently in line to have their faces painted.

A little before 6:30 p.m, the announcement was made that Santa had been spotted on East Drive, only a few blocks away from the hundreds of children and adults at the town hall site.

With those words, the hall emptied quickly and the crowd gathered outside to see Santa arrive on a fire truck.

Soon after his arrival, Santa was comfortably inside his house across the parking lot from the hall and preparing to welcome young visitors.

"He gave me a high five," said Mariah Goss, 3, after Santa greeted her on his walk to his house.

She and her mother, Mya, were visiting from Hanover, Pa.

"We love it," Mya Goss said, of the evening. "My sister lives here. We're going to come back. We don't have anything like this [in Hanover]."

Before settling in to hear children's wishes, Santa had the honor of lighting the Christmas tree. For the first time since it began three years ago, the annual tree lighting was done on a live tree, said Jeff Utzinger, a veteran organizer of the event.

"We planted it a month ago," Utzinger said, of the tree that was decked out in multi-colored lights and ornaments. "It was donated. Now, we will just have to trim it."

Also new this year were several life-size wooden nutcrackers and a wooden sled. The sled especially was an instant hit as families, couples and friends all waited for a chance to sit in it and have a photo taken.

Both the nutcrackers and the sled were the handiwork of Carl Boyer, a member of the Arbutus Community Association.

"We cut the pieces a week ago and today we built the whole thing," said Boyer, who had help from family and friends."I like to do stuff for the kids. I want them to have a good time."

Emma Van Dyke got in line at 5 p.m. to be the first to visit Santa in his house near the Ice Cream Cottage. The 9-year-old knew what she was going to ask Santa.

"I want a Xbox and the Kinect and Just Dance 4," she said, of her wish list.

Her little sister, Maria, 4, had other plans for her big sister.

"Emma wants a tablet," Maria said, before adding that she, herself, wanted an Xbox and Just Dance 4.

Last year, Remax New Beginnings gave away 300 birdhouses. This year, the local real estate company had 400 birdhouses on hand to give to children ,according to Debbie SeBour, owner.

"This is awesome. This is our fifth year," said SeBour, of providing the crafts for the festivities. "I think we have the best Santa House around."

"It's really fun," said Genna Quinn, 10, of the festivities. " It's just awesome so many people are here and all celebrating Christmas."