THE Christmas spirit was alive and well at the Sale Botanic Gardens on Tuesday night.
A sea of red, green and gold surrounded the LEAF as more than 600 people gathered to listen to Christmas carols.
An abundance of blue could also be seen among the crowd, as the Gippsland Times handed out blue balloons and reindeer food to children.
Locals set up picnic blankets to enjoy dinner while they listened to the carols, and many children were dressed in festive tutus and Santa hats.
The crowd enjoyed music by performers, including Gary and Georgia Rose and local opera singer Shakira Dugan. Students from local primary schools sang beautifully, including one sweet solo performance of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.
As the sun began to set, the Three Wise Men followed the Christmas Star to where baby Jesus lay in a manger.
Then came the highlight for many, the arrival of Santa Claus, who managed to take a quick break from his duties at the North Pole.
There was much excitement among the children as Santa wished everyone a Merry Christmas.
As darkness fell the botanic gardens were kept alight by glowing candles and the jovial spirit of the local community. Many people commented what a wonderful night it was, made even better by the exceptional behaviour of those attending.
Carols events will be held in Newry, Maffra, Stradbroke and Heyfield in coming days.