Santa Claus is coming to town!
Downpatrick is set to go Christmas crazy on Friday 29 November as crowds throng the town to welcome the man of the moment to switch on the Christmas lights.
Santa Claus will be accompanied by his wife, Mrs Claus, and two of his Little Elf Helpers – and the hot news is that, for the very first time, Santa is bringing one of his own reindeers to pull the sleigh. The reindeer selected for the honour is Prancer and, according to Santa, he’s been busy polishing his antlers so that he will look his very best when he has his photo taken with children.
“The guests of honour will be joining an exciting lantern-lit parade, led by the Downpatrick Hospital Pipe Band and featuring local schoolchildren carrying twinkling festive lanterns, all accompanied by stilt walkers, colourful characters on futuristic Segway’s and street entertainers.
“At 6.30pm, the Christkindl Parade will leave Scotch Street to make its way along Church Street and onto Market Street and St Patrick Square where Downtown Radio personalities Kirstie McMurray and Gary Myles will already have the party going, with music, competitions, giveaways and seasonal fun!
This year’s theme of ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas’ will add a vintage flavour to the celebrations with St Patrick Square transformed into a scene worthy of a traditional Christmas card. Students from the Art Department of nearby South Eastern Regional College will really get into the spirit of the occasion with a fantastic array of costumes and characters while the Choir of St Patrick’s Grammar School will serenade the crowds … and maybe even encourage a little audience participation!
The Switch On ceremony at 7.00pm will be an undoubted highlight of the year for the children and families who attend, but Down District Council Chairman, Cllr Maria McCarthy, admits that she too is falling under the Yuletide spell.
She said: “This will be one of the most pleasant duties of the year for me and I am looking forward to a great evening of family fun in Downpatrick. I have to confess that I’m wishing for a light dusting of snow to make the evening picture perfect.
“This will mark the official start of a Christmas season which I sincerely hope will be a happy and peaceful one for locals and visitors alike. I also hope that the season will be a busy one for local traders, for this year has proved tough for many and I know that our local businesses need more than seasonal goodwill from the public – they need our custom too.
“If we really value the bustle and commercial vibrancy of Downpatrick – and appreciate the employment created by our local shops – then we need to protect it. It’s up to us to vote with our feet and bring our custom! Certainly the town is about to look its festive best so hope those who crowd into the town to enjoy the fun and excitement of our Switch On ceremony will be inspired to return to do their Christmas shopping here.
“They’ll find a great welcome and a wonderful mix of shops and businesses, offering great choice and value together with the sort of warm welcome and personal approach which is synonymous with Downpatrick.”
As Downpatrick looks forward to one of its biggest family events of the year, the local Neighbourhood Policing Team is reminding people to allow a little extra time to make their journey and find a viewing position.
Constable Caroline Owens said: “The Christmas lights switch on is a popular and fun event that brings large numbers of young children, mums, dads and grandparents into the town, so we can expect things to be very busy!
“We also want everyone to have a really good time and a safe evening so we are asking for the support of local people and especially parents in ensuring older children and teenagers behave in a way that respects everyone’s right to celebrate.
“There will of course be a visible police presence at the switch on event to ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable time. We’re here to help so we encourage people to say hello or Merry Christmas when they see us!”
The Christkindl programme is available now from Down District Council outlets including Downpatrick Visitor Information Centre and at: