BALTIMORE (WJZ)—Buon Natale! It’s Christmas time in Baltimore’s Little Italy neighborhood, and this year’s celebration is a little bit brighter.

Weijia Jiang was at Friday’s big holiday celebration.

When the sounds of Christmas carols fill the streets in Baltimore’s Little Italy this time of year, locals know the countdown to a treasured tradition is on.

Dozens of visitors braved the cold for the annual Christmas tree lighting, complete with an Italian speaking “Babbo Natale” or “Father Christmas.”

 “In Italy, you hear the music and the lights; it’s not so much about the presents, it’s more about the sentiment,” said Rosalinda Mannetta.

 Brittany Slaven came to the festivities so she “could be with family and my friends and see the tree,” she said.

 Three generations of the Wojtulewick family celebrated together.

 “The whole community revolves around the parish,” said Tanya Wojtulewick. “It’s one big family. It’s special, it’s nice.”

 “This is what Christmas is all about,” said Adam Wojtulewick.

 This year’s ceremony marks a fresh start for the neighborhood. The thousands of bulbs on the red white and green strands are in the process of being replaced via the Light Up Little Italy campaign.

 “It was wonderful how everyone stepped up,” said Suzanna Molino, Little Italy Promotion Center. “The checks were pouring in, and we exceeded the goal.”

 Little Italy supporters bought bulbs for $5 a piece. Many dedicated bulbs to family members. Nearly $9,000 was collected for new LED lights. Then a donor gave another $4,500 dollars.

 It’s a gift that keeps giving—whether it’s Christmas time or not.

 You can still make a donation to the Light Up Little Italy fund. Donations are $5 per light bulb, $500 per half strand and $1,000 per full strand. Donors will be listed on the center’s website, in its weekly e-letter neighborhood news and temporarily inside posters around Little Italy. To donate, mail checks payable to: Promotion Center for Little Italy; Mail c/o 1020 Stiles Street, Little Italy, MD 21202. Please include your name, mailing address and email address. For more information, email susannamolino@littleitalymd.Com.

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