It's been a local tradition since 1924.
Area residents can join their neighbors and a brass band Christmas Eve in downtown Basking Ridge for the town's annual Christmas carol sing-a-long, starting at 7 p.m.
"The weather is looking pretty good for this week," said Jim Felter, who has been coordinating the event for the past few years. "I am hoping we will have a good crowd." The singing will last for about a half-hour, he said.
Felter said this year's brass choir will include a special guest, former Basking Ridge resident Carl Gerhard, who he said will play trumpet. Gerhard is a lieutenant who directed the U.S. Navy Pops Ensemble at last May's performance in honor of Bernards Township's 250th anniversary.
Felter said he expects nearly 2,000 people will gather around the large tree in the center of town. The tree is donated each year by the Basking Ridge Fire Co.
He said carolers are invited to bring flashlights so they can read the sheet music for the traditional carols sung each year. Bill Corson, from St. Mark's Episcopal Church, will lead the singing, Felter said.
Greg Lane will direct the brass choir, which will meet at 6 p.m. in Westminster Hall at the Presbyterian Church of Basking Ridge, Felter said. Musicians are able to drop in to join the brass ensemble, he said.
Felter said he sees many of the same carolers each Christmas Eve. Some "have been coming since they were little. They leave the area and then they come back for the carol singing."
Felter was preceded in his role by George Fricke, an 82-year-old township resident who said he hasn't missed Christmas Eve carols in Basking Ridge since he first attended in 1969.
Fricke said he worked alongside John Carswell, the township resident whom he said played Santa at the first singing session in 1924. The following year, Carswell took over organizing the event, and continued in that role for 50 years, Fricke said.
Fricke said he has a 1956 copy of The Bernardsville News, which is one of the sources referring to 1924 as the first year Christmas carols were sung in the downtown. An article from the newspaper said that only a few people attended the first event, but that the number had grown to about 750 carolers by the mid-1950s.
Fricke quoted the article as saying that the school orchestra was to be accompanied by singing children.
Fricke said an orchestra of older musicians later began playing on the "green" where the tree is located. However, snow made it difficult for band members to gather and sit around the tree some years, he said.
Fricke said the musicians later moved to their location on the steps of the Presbyterian Church. The Presbyterian Church has a worship service scheduled for 7:35 p.m., immediately following the Christmas carols, according to the church's website.