Seeing the looks on the kids' faces never gets old for Clayton resident Gloria Utley.

It's the time when Santa pays a visit to downtown -- and while the youngest visitors may at times be reluctant to approach Saint Nick, "they have no qualms about jumping onto Mrs. Claus' lap," says Utley, one of the cofounding members of the Clayton Business and Community Association that has put on the tree lighting event since the early '90s.

Holiday celebrations like this -- and in neighboring Concord -- once again bring out the tried and true, and traditions people have come to count on to celebrate the festive season.

There will be the traditional complementary horse and buggy rides in Clayton, where the public can feast on doughnuts and hot cider in front of Clayton Community Church.

This year's Dec. 7 festivities fall on Pearl Harbor Day, and Concord's celebration will feature a presence by local survivors' families during its tree lighting ceremony.

Concord resident Kathleen Farley, state chair of the Sons and Daughters of Pearl Harbor Survivors, is among the dedicated family members who have "stepped up to make sure they get the recognition they so rightly deserve," including participating in the historically well-attended official tree lighting event at Todos Santos Plaza.

"We're delighted to have some of our survivors around," says outgoing Concord Mayor Dan Helix, who will be there when they plug in the lights and who credits staff for "giving it that Christmassy feel."

Concord's entertainment lineup includes performances by Queen of All Saints Choir, Fair Oaks Choir, Calvary Temple, Concord High Jazz band, D'Ann's Academy of Dance and the Salvation Army Band, with ABC7 news anchor Dan Ashley serving as emcee -- and Santa showing up in his signature red fire truck.

And, visitors can sport holiday buttons designed by Amanda Dahlgren, a fifth-grader at Highland Elementary School, who will help light the tree.

Amanda chose to highlight the beacon on Mount Diablo that will be lit that day to commemorate the Pearl Harbor attack.

'tis the season
  • WHAT: Concord tree lighting; Santa visits and photos 4-6 p.m.; live entertainment at 5 p.m. followed by Mayor's Sing-Along and tree lighting. Carriage rides for nominal fee 4:30-7:30 p.m. ABC7 news anchor Dan Ashley emcees
    WHEN: Saturday, Dec. 7
    WHERE: Todos Santos Plaza, Willow Pass Road at Grant Street
    COST: Free; nominal fee for carriage rides
    INFORMATION: 925-671-3464 or www.concordfirst.org
  • WHAT: Clayton tree lighting with carriage rides, caroling
    WHEN: Saturday, Dec. 7; Carriage rides 4:30-6:30 p.m.; caroling 6 p.m.; tree lighting 6:30 p.m.
    WHERE: Grove Park to Main and Oak streets, downtown Clayton
    COST: Free
    INFORMATION: Call CBCA 925-672-2272