Fort Knox celebrated its annual lighting of the Christmas tree at the post gazebo Dec. 6, marking the start of the holiday season for the community.The event featured traditional Christmas mainstays to include carols from the Fort Knox Middle High School Choir, hot apple cider and cocoa, cookies, Christmas lights and the smell of fresh cut conifers.On hand to kick off the festivities was Maj. Gen. John Evans Jr., commanding general of U.S. Army Cadet Command and Fort Knox, who encouraged the community not to forget those who can't be with loved ones during the season."This time of year is special to Americans, and for our military, it is more special," said Evans. "This gives most people the opportunity to gather as families but for us, it often means having to deal with someone not home for the holidays."Lining the edge of Brooks Parade Field were several of this year's life-sized holiday cards, part of a holiday card contest whose winners were announced that evening. First-place winners included Criminal Investigations Division in the Military Units category, Godman Army Airfield in the Civilian Agencies category, Scott Intermediate School in the Schools/Children Related Agencies category, KY MBA Lincoln Trails Chapter in the Off-Post Civilian Agencies category, and 1st-410th Brigade Enhancement Battalion, 4th Cavalry Regiment for the Facebook People's Choice Award.Santa Claus arrived just after the tree lighting to the delight of children in line wishing to sit on his knee and bend his ear.While Santa may have been the highlight of the evening for many of the children, some parents said the gift of a live Christmas tree ushered the spirt of Christmas for them."This has definitely put us in the Christmas mood, and helped us transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas," said Jason Junot. "As much as I like Fort Knox, there's no snow. We're from New York and snow usually triggers the Christmas spirit in our home, but this year it's been [the tree lighting ceremony] and our first live Christmas tree."The Junots said the event has already made this Christmas season special -- and has transformed Christmases to come."This will become our tradition now," Junot said.His sons held fresh cut trimmings from their tree."I don't think we'll be able to go back [to an artificial tree]." added his wife, Carrie. "It smells wonderful."Trees for Troops provided about 350 trees to active duty, Army Reserve and National Guard Soldiers and their families at the event. Marie Alexandre said she loved the event for the same reasons as Junot but said the trees provided by Trees for Troops also keep the spirit of thanksgiving alive and well."These festivities kick start the holiday for my kids, and just the generosity of receiving a tree is very meaningful for me," Alexandre said. "Christmas brings everyone together and is a time to be thankful -- share the joy of sharing a gift and receiving someone's gift."The meaning of the gift was not lost to Alexandre, who said it was something she wants her children to comprehend, too."Being from Haiti, my parents weren't able to take us to get a live tree," she said. "This is an experience for my kids to have a live tree -- the one that you were able to choose and the one that's just right."It's big on so many levels."