Those of us old enough to remember the days when the official Middletown holiday “tree” was little more than a light-stringed pole (a precursor to Festivus?) across from the R&S store can rejoice now that the township is doing it up grand — and with tubas, to boot.

The third annual free holiday tree lighting event takes place Saturday evening at the Middletown Cultural & Arts Center, adjacent to the train station on Church Street.

Featured are an exclusive New Jersey appearance by the newly minted Yuletide phenomenon that’s sweeping the world — we’re speaking of TubaChristmas and its basso blast on the holiday songbook — as well as a 50/50 raffle, hot cocoa, cookies, crafts, and carols.

As is customary, Santa arrives by fire truck after the tree lighting, immediately following which he’ll be posing for photos inside his “secret workshop” at the MAC.

Arrive early and join in the opening reception for Let It Snow, a display of works in various media by local artists centered around a common theme — SNOW, the stuff that blanketed the region in the days right after Christmas 2010. Reception starts at 4pm with light refreshments served, and the exhibit remains on view through January 6, 2012.

Middletown Arts and Cultural Center, 36 Church Street, Middletown • 4-8pm/ FREE