Downtown Gainesville lit up with the spirit of Christmas for the first time this year with the Jingle Mingle Thursday night.
The annual celebration, hosted by Main Street Gainesville and the Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce, is an open house to promote downtown businesses and the inaugural night for Christmas decorations on the square.
Stores and restaurants on the square kept their doors open and offered samples to people who stopped in.
Don Griffin, owner of Frames You-Nique, invited authors and artists to show their products and served treats from My Daily Bread bakery in his store.
"It's one of the few times we can relax and just enjoy. It's definitely more personal," Griffin said. "I'm glad to see the kids come through and frankly to see the square full."
Bobbie Jones came to the Jingle Mingle with her sister-in-law Paula Jones.
"It's just a wonderful time. It gives you that festive feeling," said Bobbie Jones, who looks forward to the event every year. "It's a good introduction to the holidays."
Paula Jones said she enjoys making the special trip to spend the evening downtown.
"We get to see the new patrons on the square. We don't get downtown too much," Paula Jones said.
Santa Claus also made his debut, inviting children to join him on a bench to tell him their Christmas wishes.
Families lined the sidewalk waiting for their chance to meet him.
Eli Chaffin, 3, said he was ready to tell Santa Claus what he wants for Christmas: a Batman action figure and a remote controlled fire truck.
"We're so excited about getting ready for Christmas," said Eli's mother, Alyson Chaffin. "Eli was so excited. He couldn't wait to see the lights and see Santa."