Thousands join Santa to light up Derry for Christmas

Santa flys over the crowd with the help of the Fire and Rescue Service during the Christmas Lights Switch on in Derry in Guildhall Square. Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 17.11.16
Santa flys over the crowd with the help of the Fire and Rescue Service during the Christmas Lights Switch on in Derry in Guildhall Square. Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 17.11.16
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Thousands of people braved freezing conditions on Thursday night to join Santa for the Big Christmas Light Switch On in Derry.

And Father Christmas managed to bring a bit of festive magic as snow began falling just as the lights came on across the town to the sound of a live band playing The Pogues ‘Fairytale of New York’.

Santa pictured with Shane, Connie and Megan McGrinder and Davy, Sam and Alisin Graham after he switched the Christmas Lights on in Derry. Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 17.11.16

Santa pictured with Shane, Connie and Megan McGrinder and Davy, Sam and Alisin Graham after he switched the Christmas Lights on in Derry. Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 17.11.16

The Big Switch On heralds the official start of Derry’s Christmas celebrations, with a packed programme in store over the coming weeks, with highlights including Austin’s windows being re-animated in a nod to Christmases past in the city, and the Sound of Light festival to take place next weekend.

Last night saw families with awe struck children pack into Guildhall Square and Waterloo Place for the build-up of live music and entertainment before Santa made his dramatic entrance by fire brigade, after teasing the crowds by appearing at windows around the square.

There was a last minute change to the Switch On after an unforeseen issue meant that Paw Patrol, who were due to help Santa with the Switch On, were called off duty.

Head of Culture with Derry City and Strabane District Council, Aeidin McCarter, said she was delighted that Santa had made a special appearance at the event.

Santa makes Derry his number one stop off as he switch on the Christmas Lights in Guildhall Square. Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 17.11.16

Santa makes Derry his number one stop off as he switch on the Christmas Lights in Guildhall Square. Picture Martin McKeown. Inpresspics.com. 17.11.16

She said: “It was fantastic to see so many families turning out to this evening’s Switch On event, despite the inclement conditions.

“Santa and his reindeer received such a warm welcome from the children of Derry that he will definitely be adding a few extra toys to his sleigh when he comes back on December 25, and I’ve heard that a few names have even been moved off the naughty list.

“We look forward now over the coming weeks to unveiling some exciting new highlights in our Christmas programme. This is such an important time for local businesses and it’s great to be able to bring more people into our city and town centres to enjoy the cultural and commercial delights which we have to offer.”

For more information on all the events taking place in the Christmas programme go to www.derrystrabane.com/christmas.