FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Santa Claus came to town early, bearing gifts and holiday cheer for children of all ages.

Hundreds of Fort Jackson community members were greeted by Santa's jolly "Ho, Ho, Ho," as he rode on top of a firetruck during a surprise visit to post headquarters Thursday for the 22nd annual Christmas Tree, Manger and Menorah Lighting ceremony.

Despite frigid weather, children eagerly lined up to sit on Santa's lap to relay their Christmas wishes and to have their photo taken with the most famous man on Earth.

"It was awesome," said Brooke Bourne, whose 5-year-old son Ian asked "Father Christmas" for a blue motorcycle with silver stars. "The look on his face was priceless."

Just moments before Santa arrived, Maj. Gen. James Milano, commanding general, and two children from the crowd pushed the button to light the tree, manger and Menorah all at once, igniting a burst of cheers and applause from the crowd.

The 282nd Army Band and the C.C. Pinckney School Chorus led the audience in a medley of Christmas carols.

"They sounded great," Bourne said. "They sang really good Christmas songs. My favorite was definitely, 'Here comes Santa Claus.'"

Bourne said seeing her 12-year-old daughter, Ashley Jenkins, a sixth grader at C.C. Pinckney Elementary School, sing in the chorus, brought back merry Christmas memories from her own childhood.

"Seeing her (sing) reminded me of when I was growing up and singing in Christmas performances," Bourne said. "I'm a very proud parent."

Annette Francis, music teacher and choral director for the Pinckney Chorus, said she was elated by her students' performance.

"For the first performance of the season, the students performed very well," Francis said. "They were excited and grateful for the opportunity to share our music with the Fort Jackson community."

Following the ceremony, the attendees were invited to enjoy cookies and hot cocoa.