History & Culture

A look at glittering illuminations around the globe


Get your cameras ready! The largest Christmas light maze and glittering illuminations are up across most cities and town squares around the globe

Oh dear! Santa’s reindeer have gone missing. Eddie the naughty elf has been up to mischief again. Now, the task is to look for them in one giant maze — spanning 90,000 square feet. Given that it is lit up by two million lights, with glittering life-size displays along the way, chances are you will get distracted.

At Enchant Christmas, The Great Search is underway. The brainchild of Enchant, a Vancouver-based entertainment company, the event this year brings the world’s largest Christmas light maze to Seattle, Washington and St Petersburg in United States of America. Who can say no to the lure of twinkling fairy lights in blue, white and a gamut of colours? In addition, the venue also has a Christmas market, a workshop where attendees can meet Santa Claus and listen to Mrs Claus read out stories, an ice skating trail, buskers, carollers and a lot of entertainment.

A look at glittering illuminations around the globe

“The tickets are priced at $19.99 per head and we are expecting thousands of attendees throughout the course of the event’s run,” says an executive from the Enchant team.

Rooted in history

It is believed that Christmas lights first started making an appearance in the 17th century, when trees were decorated with ornaments and lit candles (a practice that is first said to have started in Germany). “Christmas decoration and illumination is a very old tradition in Germany and was first concentrated around churches. With [the discovery of] electricity, it extended to official buildings and continued with light banners across streets and tall decorated Christmas trees,” says Gabriele Landwehr, former director of the Max Mueller Bhavan Chennai.

Every year, the family traditions start by the end of November with the Adventskranz (Advent wreath) and four candles — each for the four Sundays before Christmas. Then the tree is decorated. The illumination of roofs and gardens may have come with the American influence, but is now widely practised, she adds.

A look at glittering illuminations around the globe

“In Germany, one of the richest decorations, with approximately 5,000 lights, belongs to the so-called Christmas House in the city of Calle in Lower Saxony. According to the Christmas Fair Contest, this city also won the most beautiful Christmas lights. But not just Calle, there are other German cities too that have won this honour,” says Gabriele. Her favourite, however, is Nürnberg in Bavaria.

“Since 1969, they also choose a Christkindl (a girl in an angel’s dress). It is the symbol for the Nürnberg Christkindl Market. This year’s Christkindl is the daughter of a German citizen of Indian descent,” she adds.

The lights across the country are usually on till January 6, when the Three Kings Holiday is celebrated. Over the years, both locals and international visitors have been flocking to these cities to witness the dramatic illuminations with a mug of hot cider in hand.

Lights up!

Inspired by the season and its love for all things luminous, the Italians have gone a step further and made an annual art festival out of it, with works of contemporary artists on display. Le Luci d’Artista first started in Turin in 1998, while the city of Salerno, which picked up on it almost a decade back, has found many a holidaymaker trading their sunny summer holidays for chilly nights just to be part of this event. From November 15 to January 19, the parks, city square, seaside and the alleys here turn into a showcase with installations in shapes of reindeer, narwhals, comets, forests and the night sky.

A look at glittering illuminations around the globe

Meanwhile, in London, the angels are back again at Regent Street. The silhouettes, each framed by a hundred tiny lights, form a canopy above the busy shopping street. Oxford Street, which around this time of the year becomes one of the most photographed spots, is said to have more than 2 lakh lights this year, along with 27 LED panels hanging overhead that will keep changing its colours and displays each day.

For a lot of Londoners, nothing quite signifies the advent of Christmas as the switching on of these lights. Different streets and boroughs stagger their dates, with the ceremony taking place amidst performances and much fanfare. This year it started as early as November 7, with Carnaby and Savile Row. The latter gave in to the pressure of Christmas lights for the first time, while Carnaby has a sea theme with marine life.

Cities like London, Paris and Singapore have been smartly cashing in on this fascination with lights. Their open-top bus tours (priced roughly between ₹1,700 to ₹2,500) lets clients cosy up under blankets while taking in the festive sights all around. That’s one more for the Gram!

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Printable version | Jan 29, 2020 2:12:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/history-and-culture/the-best-christmas-lights-this-year/article30338525.ece

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