To paraphrase Dorothy: 'There is no place like London.' I hope I can convince you of that here. Also check out my blog at damselwithadulcimer.wordpress.com and my theatre reviews at www.playstosee.com
Published November 3rd 2012
Festive Lights, Decorations, Glitz and Glamour over London
Brightly lit shopping streets are now such a quintessential part of Christmas that it's difficult to conceive of a time when they weren't around. As far as London is concerned the first illuminations lit up Regent Street in 1954 and neighbouring Oxford Street followed suit five years later. The city was still emerging from the austerity imposed as a result of World War II, so these decorations must have shone out of the darkness like the sun after an eclipse.
Over the years other smaller shopping streets and areas have installed their own Christmas lights, making London a cheerful and colourful place to visit. With the exception of a period during the oil crisis of the 1970s London's streets have continued to twinkle over the festive period. Thankfully the current economic crisis hasn't affected the decorations, but it has resulted in commercial sponsorship, which doesn't always sit easily with the holiday ethos. Some of this year's decorations have already been erected above Oxford Street, and the sponsor is Marmite. I refrain from commenting.
The lights will be switched on this year in Oxford Street on 5 November. Robbie Williams will be doing the honours at 5pm, and he will be joined by Leona Lewis and boy band Lawson.
2005 Oxford Street Christmas Lights (Picture Courtesy of Wikipedia)
Regent Street will be holding back for a week and will burst into glitter on 13 November, accompanied by singers and musicians. The switches will be flicked by medal winning Team GB Olympians and Paralympians and the lights will tell the story of the Twelve Days of Christmas. The event will be completed with a display of fireworks.
An Unilluminated Tenth Day of Christmas
Bond Street will be holding fire for even longer and the illuminations won't be switched on until 29 November. There isn't a huge amount of information available as yet but expect something traditional, such as hot chestnuts, reindeer, stilt walkers and carol singers. A mystery guest is rumoured to be turning on the lights at 6pm.
Round in Carnaby Street we will be reminded of the Swinging Sixties. The theme will take its inspiration from the Rolling Stones' 50th anniversary year and it is anticipated that the lights, to be switched on on 8 November, will be inspired by gold and silver records. The street will also be home to a temporary Stones' memorabilia shop.
Covent Garden will be taking a slightly more alternative aspect on 7 November at 6.30 when the London Gay Men's Chorus will be welcoming in a gay yuletide. If you can't get down on the Wednesday, they will be serenading shoppers every evening until Christmas Eve. There will be plenty for all the family, including reindeer petting, a Christmas food market and a giant Lego calendar. Decorations and lights will fill the Piazza, the Market Building and Henrietta, James, Russell and King Streets.
Last Year's Giant Reindeer in the Covent Garden Piazza
Up in Marylebone High Street, Claudia Winkelman will be flicking the switch at 3.30pm on 14 November. There will be a full stage show throughout the afternoon and early evening, including carols sung by local choirs. Rays of Sunshine has again been chosen as the charity partner for the event, local shops will be offering special promotions and there will be stalls selling food to satisfy hungry tummies.
These are the major London streets that will be lit up for Christmas, but there will be many more illuminations to be spotted, both in smaller streets and neighbourhoods and on individual shops and department stores. It goes without saying that some decorations will be more traditional than others, and I leave you to choose your own favourites.