In a Christmas season tinged with sadness by tragic loss in Newtown, the annual holiday party organized Friday evening by the Pequot Library provided a warming respite of cheer.

In one room of the landmark Southport library, carolers from Fairfield Country Day School offered enthusiastic renditions of out holiday tunes while visitors helped themselves to eggnog from a table manned by Sam Kingston of Kingston Family Vineyards.

In the auditorium, kids swarmed around long tables working on craft activities, from cookie decorating and fashioning candy canes from pipe cleaners to creating holiday pins and assembling bags of reindeer food.

Outside on the library's Great Lawn, a fire blazed in a pit and attendees climbed into horse-drawn carriages for a ride around the Southport neighborhood.

"This is my first caroling event for the library," said Martha Lord, the library's new executive director. "It's great to see everyone here and neighbors from all over. It was a tough week ... traditions are good ... and this is an opportunity to celebrate the season."

Standing with Lord was Fairfield Country Day Headmaster John Munro, who was pleased to accompany his choir to the event. "Music is a huge part of our curriculum," he said.

Fairfielder Eric Sundman said, "We love Pequot and the community service they provide. We're here three days a week. We can't imagine Fairfield without it."