London Christmas Lights

In London, you know that Christmas is coming when you see a dedicated Christmas department at Harrods and Selfridges even from mid September. (It just grows bigger and bigger the following months). In October, supermarket chains, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Marks And Spencer, throw in their Christmas catalogues. But what really sets the scene is the switching on of the Christmas lights at several commercial streets around London in November.

Each street boasts individual Christmas decorations and an independent switching-on ceremony that draws celebrities and thousands or people each year. But who are the winners and the losers of Christmas decorations? Which streets have carefully thought of a plan and which do not bother at all? Here is a brief photographic journey for the past 4 years and the awards for the best Christmas lights of the capital.

Last place: Oxford Street

Oxford Street Christmas Lights

Oxford Street Christmas Lights

One street that is difficult to miss in London is Oxford Street. It holds the reigns of Europe’s busiest shopping street and features the biggest department stores and high-street brands. Therefore, it comes as a surprise that their Christmas lights are the most uninspiring. For the past 4 years they have not changed a bit. They have the same blue chandeliers surrounded by yellow-glowing lights. With so many people visiting, wouldn’t they be able to provide better and different Christmas lights every year?

Second runner-up: Bond Street

Bond Street Christmas Lights

Bond Street Christmas Lights

Judging from the impressive array of luxury brands in Bond Street, one would expect similar lavish decorations for Christmas. But, the street failed to live up to the expectations. For three consecutive years, Bond Street featured the same theme: traditional Christmas lights arranged in spherical or triangular shapes. But in 2008, I was positively surprised to see that this uninspiring theme was substituted with giant ribbons.

First runner-up: Regent Street

Regent Street Christmas Lights

Regent Street Christmas Lights

Regent Street is second best to Oxford Street as a shopping destination. The Christmas lights at Regent street we sponsored by big companies for the past three year but evidently, this did not necessarily cater for taste. For Christmas 2005 – 2006 they were sponsored by DreamWorks SKG and the huge light banners merely became advertising ground for the company’s animation movies. Soon, the winds of change started to blow in Regent street. For Christmas 2007, the decorations were sponsored by Nokia and included large spheres of changing colours; a welcome departure from the ugly banners of last years. And for 2008, Regent Street showed a more traditional approach to Christmas (albeit without a sponsor): following the theme of “Wish upon a star”, the road was filled with giant light stars. Regent streets received the first runner-up award, as their Christmans decorations just got better with time.

Honourable mention: Covent Garden

Covent Garden Christmas Lights

Covent Garden Christmas Lights

Before the winner of the best Christmas light decorations for the past 4 years is announced, there is one honourable mention: Covent Garden, due to the ambience of the Piazza and the uniqueness of this year’s design. Following on a common theme of bright white lights, this year’s Christmas decorations were unique, more energy efficient and interactive. This year’s light installation comprised of numerous led bulbs that change colour responding to stimuli from music and passers-by. When active, the lights created a spectacular mosaic of different colours at the roof of the Piazza; perhaps the best decoration for this year.

And the winner is … Carnaby Street

Carnaby Street Christmas Lights

Carnaby Street Christmas Lights

Just another reason why good things come in small packages. Carnaby street would be unable to cope the competition from the bigger shopping streets in the capital had not been for its uniqueness to cater for a younger, funkier and more stylish crowd. And when it comes to Christmas lights, style was no exception either.

Following a different theme for almost every year, the decorations of this street have consistently amazed me by the freshness of the ideas and the intricate implementation of the designs. The street featured a minimalistic array on neon lights in different colours for Christmas 2005-2006. This was substituted with oversized colourful festive ribbons in 2007.

But just when you thought that everything else has been tried, this year, it held a spectacular cascade of snowflakes and 13 huge inflatable snowmen. A proof that when it comes to Christmas decorations, there is no need to expect only Christmas lights.


(all photos © LambdaPhage).



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