Although it’s only mid November, Kingston has declared the Christmas season as officially upon us! On Thursday 14th November, the beloved town was transformed into a breathtaking winter wonderland when the clocks struck 6pm: the glimmering Christmas lights were turned on and magic was in the air.

Kingston is a popular shopping spot for many locals, as well as a great location to meet up with friends and family for a coffee, a meal or a tranquil stroll by the river. However, at this time of year, it’s more than that. It’s a dazzling hub of activity, laughter and, above all, Christmas spirit.

In the lead up to the illuminating ceremony, entertainment was in abundance. From 4:30pm, both visitors and locals had their spirits lifted by a traditional brass band, light-up drummers and balloon-modelling stilt-walkers. The atmosphere was incredible; everyone was delighted and smiles as wide as the Thames itself settled across the faces of each and every person. Upon seeing the light-up drummers, young children were mesmerised. According to a local mum of 3, Emily W, “The combination of music and colourful lights left them (her children) feeling elated.”

Starting at 5pm, scheduled entertainment began. Local singing groups and dancers made for the stage, where they showed off their talents and ensured that not a soul in sight was experiencing boredom. The LED drummers and Borough Brass Band also made an appearance on the main stage, as well as skilled and beautiful ballet dancers and the cast of the Rose Theatre’s ‘Snow Queen’. After a long, tiresome day of school and work, people were more than grateful for the chance to escape from their daily lives and spend their evening in a fun-filled Kingston. Those wanting a bit of a quieter evening had the option of attending the family service at All Saints Church, which takes place every November.

As 6pm approached, more and more people gathered around the stage and awaited the moment of truth. This Thursday marked yet another year of Kingston’s glorious illuminating ceremony, a time punctuated by feverish excitement and joyful chatter. Anticipation was sky high – the turning on of the Christmas lights is an annual affair after all. The Rose Theatre’s Snow Queen did the honours this year, making the occasion even more special. Kingston was immediately bathed in a glow of lights. Locals and visitors alike were immersed into the seasonal town and they all knew what it meant: the Christmas countdown had begun. Moreover, the falling of ‘snow’ elevated the event, making it even more memorable, and unearthed the inner child in everyone.

Kingston’s popular Christmas market also opened this Thursday. Gone was the ordinary Market Place; it was replaced by traditional wooden cabins, each one like a unique treasure chest. Whether it was a chalet selling spiced gingerbread hearts, unusual Christmas decorations or handmade gifts, each one was looked upon with admiration by the surging crowds. Giving a Nordic feel to a London Borough, these stalls aided Kingston’s transformation into a more traditional Christmas town.

Christmas also is known for festive food and drink, so having market stalls selling mulled wine, German Bratwurst hotdogs and tasty treats like chocolate crepes means no one went hungry this Thursday evening. The scent of creamy, mouthwatering hot chocolate lingered tantalisingly in the air as people indulged in the popular hot beverage. There was even a fire pit – people could toast marshmallows and watch the flickering flames dance away to the lively melodies spilling out across Kingston, warning both people’s bodies and hearts. Friends and families took the time to enjoy themselves, carefree and happy, whilst the young children among them experienced a day like no other.

All in all, 2019 was another successful year of the Christmas Lights Ceremony in Kingston upon Thames. Thursday 14th November was loved by all: it was memorable and entertaining. Luckily, the beautiful lights and bustling Christmas market will remain in Kingston until the end of December, ensuring that everyone has adequate time to experience Kingston at Christmas. 40 sleeps remain until the big day, so the time to be swept away by a whirlwind of glee and excitement has truly begun.

By Alex Pyatnytska, Esher College