ANGELIC song and stunning decorations marked the beginning of the festive season for scores of families.
It came as the much-adored Leigh Park Christmas Grotto was unveiled for a 15th year.
The display has become a hotly-anticipated spectacle among residents of the Havant suburb – effectively kicking off the countdown to Christmas for many.
Crowds gathered at the Greywell Shopping Centre yesterday as Father Christmas swung open the grotto’s doors to invite youngsters in for an affordable festive experience.
The mayor of Havant, councillor Peter Wade, was at the site next door to Savers as festivities got under way.
‘The volunteers here are always excellent and they have done Leigh Park proud again today,’ he said.
‘The effort that has gone into this grotto is tremendous and it’s a delight to see the looks on the kids’ faces as they get to see Father Christmas.’
Celebrations began just after 1pm when children from Warren Park Primary School serenaded the onlooking crowds with a host of classic Christmas songs.
Leigh Park resident Stacey Razzell went along to watch and support her eight-year-old daughter, Megan.
‘I’m so proud. Megan was so nervous and she has been practicing for this at home for weeks,’ the 34-year-old said.
‘The decorations are even better than they were last year – this really is something you don’t get anywhere else.’
Upon walking inside the grotto, for which entry is £3, Santa’s visitors are transported to a twinkling winter wonderland inhabited by plush polar bears, penguins and a sleigh made by local schoolchildren.
After a walk through a trio of arches the man himself awaits – alongside Mrs Claus – ready to hand out one of the hundreds of presents which have been hand-picked and wrapped for the children of Leigh Park.
Barncroft councillor Yvonne Weeks is one of 20 volunteers at the Leigh Park Christmas Grotto group which makes the attraction possible every year.
‘It takes us about two months to set it up, dedicating a couple of hours every day,’ she said.
‘Every year we try to buy different items to make the display a new experience for the children who come along and I’m so pleased with how it has turned out today.
'The families love coming to see their children perform and, when we’re here, I think we even bring a bit of business to the shops as well which is good news for everybody.’
Warren Park Primary School’s deputy headteacher Lynne Lofting said her choir contingency had been looking forward to the grotto’s grand opening for weeks.
‘They have been incredibly excited and it’s so lovely for them to come and sing to an audience and feel appreciated,’ she said.
‘They give up their own time during lunch time to come and practice and they have been doing that for a good few weeks for the Christmas songs.’
Pupils from Barncroft Primary School, in Havant, also sung.