ONE of the highlights of Christmas in the North West will take place in a virtual setting this weekend when Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, councillor Brian Tierney, is joined by Santa Claus to perform the festive lights switch-ons by magic in Derry and Strabane.
The event traditionally attracts tens of thousands of families but it will be broadcast online as a magical Christmas adventure this year to allow the public to enjoy it from the safety of their homes.
The switch-ons will take place on Saturday at 5pm in Strabane and in the city on Sunday at 5pm and will be broadcast live on derrystrabane.com/christmas and the Mayor's social media accounts.
The event is part of the council's Christmas Programming for 2020 which began this week and includes the Mayor's Virtual Christmas Tea Dance and online Christmas activities for families.
"The turning on of our Christmas lights is normally one of our biggest events of the year, marking the beginning of the festive season," said Mayor Tierney.
"While current restrictions mean we can't gather physically to mark it, I am delighted that families can still experience the lights being turned on together in their homes before making a trip into our retail centres over the festive season to view them safely for themselves.
“The kids are sure to enjoy this magical virtual story and see the adventures along the way, of how my journey with Santa Claus unfolded in order to get to the town and city in time to light them up for Christmas.
"Despite the restrictions, council officers have designed an innovative programme of events that will allow the public to celebrate Christmas safely and enhance the visitor and shopper offering in Derry and Strabane.
"This year has presented unprecedented challenges for local businesses, many of whom have been closed or are operating at a limited capacity, so I would appreciate if the public can make a particularly conscious effort to support them by shopping and gifting local this Christmas."
For more detailed information and updates on Derry City and Strabane District Council's family-friendly Christmas programme visit www.derrystrabane.com/christmas.