LEICESTER’S giant Christmas tree will be a symbol of hope for the city this winter, as the whole country locks down to stop the spread of coronavirus.
The 50ft tree – from a sustainable source in the Kielder Forest in Northumberland – arrived in the city in the early hours of yesterday morning (Tuesday 10 November) and now stands proudly alongside Leicester’s Clock Tower.
From today (Wednesday), contractors working for the city council will start the mammoth task of decorating the tree with hundreds of pink, turquoise and gold baubles, and around 6,000 pea-lights.
And while many of the events and activities scheduled for the run-up to Christmas will not now take place, the tree – and the city centre’s streets – will be lit up in lights from next week until January.
City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “We have to accept that the festive season will be very different for all of us this year, and we simply won’t be able to do all the things we associate with the run-up to Christmas.
“The priority now is to stop the virus in its tracks – and that means staying at home as much as possible for the next few weeks.
“Fortunately, all the hard work to dress the city centre for Christmas has already been done by our fantastic street lighting team – so when all the city centre’s shops are allowed to open again, they’ll do so under our colourful Christmas lights.
“There’s been a Christmas tree at the Clock Tower for as long as anyone can remember, so I’m very glad that the tradition will continue this year, with the tree a symbol of hope in what’s been a very difficult year.
“This lockdown is not going to be easy for anyone, but our intention is to do what we can to bring a bit of light into people’s lives during the winter months – and remind ourselves that spring, and better times, aren’t too far away.”
The traditional event to switch on the Christmas lights won’t be taking place this year, because of the current restrictions on mass gatherings. Instead, the lights will simply be switched on during the hours of darkness next week.
The city council’s lighting team started work in October to put up the decorations that span more than 20 city centre streets. This year, an extra £38,000 has been spent on brand new decorations for Horsefair Street and Humberstone Gate.
In Town Hall Square, families will be able to see the traditional Christmas nativity scene, as well as an animated tableau featuring characters from the Tales of Narnia.
White pea-lights will light up the trees in Green Dragon Square, while Christmas lights and decorations will also brighten up St Martin’s Square, Highcross and the Haymarket shopping centre this winter.
Ideas and activities for Christmas in Leicester will soon be available at www.christmasinleicester.co.uk