Photo galleries: Christmas arrives in Norfolk as towns and villages across the region switch on festive lights

A large crowd turned out to see Father Christmas turn on the Christmas Lights in Fakenham town centr

A large crowd turned out to see Father Christmas turn on the Christmas Lights in Fakenham town centre. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

Thousands of people have celebrated the arrival of the festive season in Norfolk and Suffolk as Christmas lights were switched on across the region.

Father Christmas arriving by vintage motorcycle for Aylsham's festive lights switch-on. Photo: Karen

Father Christmas arriving by vintage motorcycle for Aylsham's festive lights switch-on. Photo: Karen Bethell. - Credit: Archant

Beccles Christmas light switch on.

Beccles Christmas light switch on. - Credit: Nick Butcher

• Father Christmas and his reindeer helped to bring early Christmas spirit to Attleborough when they switched the lights on Sunday evening.

Bungay Christmas lights

Bungay Christmas lights - Credit: Nick Butcher

Thousands of people gathered around Queens Square where local radio presenter, Tina James, who lives in the town, did the honours.

Dereham's countdown to Christams began with a tree-lighting ceremony, with stalls, choirs and a funf

Dereham's countdown to Christams began with a tree-lighting ceremony, with stalls, choirs and a funfair attracting crowds to the Market Place. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: Archant Norfolk

Mrs James was accompanied by Mayor Karen Pettitt, carnival queen Ashlee Mead, and prince and princess Louis Thorpe, and Amy Tebble.

Diss Christmas Lights 2013Photo: Sonya Duncan

Diss Christmas Lights 2013Photo: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan- Archant

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Children were able to enjoy an adrenaline blast on the fairground rides and Santa's reindeer made an appearance.

Great Yarmouth Christmas lights switch on in the market place.Picture: James Bass

Great Yarmouth Christmas lights switch on in the market place.Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2011

Mrs James said: 'Switching on the Christmas lights is an absolute pleasure. It was wonderful to see so many people out enjoying themselves. It's an honour to do it.'

King's Lynn Christmas lights switch on. Picture: Matthew Usher.

King's Lynn Christmas lights switch on. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

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People were chauffeured around the town in a steam bus and stallholders packed into the town hall where they sold early Christmas presents.

Festive "snow" falling on the crowds at North Walsham's Christmas lights switch-on. Photo: Karen Bet

Festive "snow" falling on the crowds at North Walsham's Christmas lights switch-on. Photo: Karen Bethell - Credit: Archant

Mrs Pettitt thanked everyone who had helped to make the event a success.

Thetford Christmas Lights 2013 switched on by Norwich Under 21 player Cameron King.Photo: Sonya Dunc

Thetford Christmas Lights 2013 switched on by Norwich Under 21 player Cameron King.Photo: Sonya Duncan - Credit: Sonya Duncan- Archant

'We have the best Christmas lights in Norfolk,' she said. 'We have one of the best events - there's so much to do. It has been fantastic and I am grateful to everyone who has got involved.'

The Thorpe Christmas lights are switched on by Mayor John Ward, Father Christmas, Norwich City's Ricky van Wolfswinkel...

The Thorpe Christmas lights are switched on by Mayor John Ward, Father Christmas, Norwich City's Ricky van Wolfswinkel, and some Thorpe children. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: copyright: Archant 2013

The Wymondham Dickensian Steam Punk Fayre event. The Christmas lights are switched on. Picture: Deni

The Wymondham Dickensian Steam Punk Fayre event. The Christmas lights are switched on. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: copyright: Archant 2013

• Father Christmas left his sledge at home and motored into Aylsham on a three-wheeled vintage motorcycle at the start of the town's switch-on celebrations.

Swaffham: Christmas lights switch-on. Picture: Ian Burt

Swaffham: Christmas lights switch-on. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

The bearded biker met lantern-carrying children in St Michael's Churchyard and went with them to Market Place for the ceremony.

This year's VIP guests at the switch-on were north Norfolk businessman Michael Baker, who took over the town's Budgens supermarket in September, and Dr Keith Harrison, who retired in July after 33 years as a GP in Aylsham.

Red Lion Street was also closed to traffic and revellers browsed in shops which stayed open late, among stalls, and in the town hall where there was also a children's Christmas workshop. Aylsham Heritage Centre stayed open with a photo display called 3D Aylsham.

Aylsham Band and the town's Salvation Army Band played music to put everyone in the Christmas spirit and there was also a Market Place display by young members of Parallel Dance, from Reepham, plus children's fairground rides.

Families also flocked into St Michael's Church to wonder at the annual Christmas tree festival.

• The centre of Beccles was transformed into a magical Christmas array of sparkling lights and happy faces as the town got lit up for the festive season.

Town mayor Caroline Topping was joined by BBC television's weather presenter Julie Reinger to perform the opening ceremony at New Market.

'Beccles has a special place in my heart as I have so many friends in the area. I am delighted to be here and wish you all a Merry Christmas,' said Julie.

Thousands of people joined in the countdown and right on cue the lights came on to great cheers from the waiting crowd.

A number of charities and other good causes had stalls placed around the centre of town and people of all ages enjoyed the festive occasion.

This year also saw the launch of the first Christmas tree trail competition in Beccles with 50 shops in the town joining together to run the event which carries on until Christmas Eve.

It has been a record breaking year for the organisers of the Hungate Christmas Tree Festival at Beccles.

The church is filled with 55 trees decorated by schools, organisations and charities from the Beccles area.

Barbara Sigsworth, one of the organisers, said: 'This is our 11th year of holding the Christmas tree festival.

'We have a record entry and what is so pleasing is that more than 20 of the entries have come from children,' she said.

• An estimated 15,000 people attended the Bungay Christmas street market on Sunday for what has been described as the 'best' market ever in the historic town.

More than 80 stalls enjoyed 'a tremendous day' according to organisers, with high-quality Christmas goods on offer. Trees, cakes, gifts, preserves and wreaths were among a wide range of items available as the market ran 'the full length' of the Market Place and Earsham Street area of Bungay.

Stallholders were busy from 9am onwards as they sold a wide selection of goods with a Christmas theme. Father Christmas made a welcome appearance along with performances from three choirs, including the South Norfolk Youth Symphonic Band, in the centre of the fair.

The crowds were still 'heaving' in the middle of the afternoon as all ages enjoyed the traditional switching on of Bungay's Christmas lights in the town centre by the Mayor and Town Reeve.

John Pestell, who oversees the event which is organised by the Bungay and District Chamber of Trade, said: 'I am over the moon. The Christmas street market has been going in this form for at least 15 years, I have been running it for eight years and this is the biggest attendance ever.'

• Hundreds flocked to Dereham's Market Place on Sunday afternoon as the countdown to the town's Christmas tree lighting ceremony began.

Town mayor Kate Millbank took to the stage to flick the switch – officially ushering in the start of the festive season.

She thanked the local groups who had volunteered their time for the display and added: 'Everyone loves Christmas and we hope people will enjoy having the lights in Dereham.'

The illuminations were down-sized this year by the town council after it failed to raise the £6,000 needed for its full traditional display from Market Place traders.

Instead the town's central Christmas tree, the Assembly Rooms and some individual shops which have contributed to their own lights will be illuminated during December.

• A south Norfolk town was turned into a winter wonderland when the Christmas lights were switched on.

Hundreds of people lined the streets of Diss for the annual lights switch on where children were able to catch an early glimpse of Santa Claus.

The lights were switched on by Carnival Queen Alice Cator, Mayor Neil Howard, Pete Gillings and Santa.

Mr Howard said: 'I would like to say a big thanks to everyone who came out to support us and to everybody who pulled together to make the event happen. It's a big team effort.

'Without a shadow of a doubt, Christmas has now arrived in Diss. We even had an artificial snow machine.'

• Fakenham's Market Square was filled with festive cheers as people turned out in their droves for the town's Christmas lights extravaganza.

Saturday's day-long festivities, which included fairground rides, stage shows, games and stalls, culimated with Santa pushing the button to light up the town before settling into his grotto.

Mark Baldwin, from KickStart Fakenham, which organised the Christmas lights switch-on in collaboration with the Fakenham Area Partnership, said: 'It was a very succesful event, everything seemed to come together and there was a good community feeling. People really looked to be enjoying themselves and it was great to see the town buzzing.'

• Great Yarmouth's countdown to Christmas began in true seaside style. The biggest crowd in recent years stretched from Palmers to Market Gates for the lights switch on.

And on a mild night, radio presenters Rob and Chrissie took to the stage for their last lights switch on with Heart FM.

Joined by Santa, the crowd enjoyed family-friendly patter over a fuzzy PA system before Yarmouth mayor John Burroughs arrived to do the honours at 7pm.

A chanted countdown from ten saw glittering lights illuminate the town centre, as fireworks flashed across the sky from behind Market Gates.

A huge round of applause marked the end of the display, and shops remained open as thoughts turned to presents.

• King's Lynn residents gave rising musical star Abi Alton a big cheer as she switched on the town's Christmas lights display in front of a crowd of 3,500 people.

The 19-year-old singing sensation, who wowed X-Factor judges with her self-penned songs during this year's auditions, took to the stage along with stars from this year's King's Lynn Corn Exchange panto to mark the official countdown to the town's festive season.

The party atmosphere started from 5.30pm with live music and street performances in the King's Lynn Vancouver Quarter shopping centre.

From 6pm, residents gathered in the Tuesday Market Place for a selection of live entertainment, with stars from the Corn Exchange pantomime – such as Darren Day – taking to the stage.

However, the main event was Miss Alton's appearance shortly after 7pm, where she sang some of the songs she performed on the show ahead of the official countdown.

West Norfolk deputy mayor Barry Ayres said it was a 'wonderful show' which highlighted what King's Lynn has to offer people this Christmas. He said it also showcased the new-look Tuesday Market Place.

Town centre manager Alistair Cox added: 'We work hard to make it a family-friendly event and we want to support the retailers as well, so I'm pleased to say the crowds have come out supporting it.

'I think we had a really nice mix of entertainment, local bands and someone who's been on the one of the most popular television shows. Sometimes people take for granted what happens in the town but there are an awful lot of events for free, such as the Christmas lights switch-on and Festival Too.'

• A traditional Christmas story, told through trees shrouded in darkness beneath a starlit sky, was exhibited at a church near Lowestoft.

An inaugural Christmas Tree festival at St Luke's Church in Oulton Broad was hailed a success as it showcased the festive story as it has rarely been seen before – as groups who use the church hall all combined to produce a range of different Christmas trees portraying special scenes.

From the Little Buddies pre-school, through the Brownies and Guides, to the Ladies Guild and church regulars, each created a Christmas tree that guided visitors on a special journey.

A delighted Rev Gillie Powell said: 'The idea is this exhibition tells the story of Christmas in Christmas trees. This is a community church, and all the people who use it have been involved.'

• Flurries of artificial snow gave added festive flair to North Walsham's Christmas lights switch-on.

Crowds packed Market Place to watch former Anglia TV presenter Helen McDermott lead the laser-beam countdown. She was helped by the three young daughters - Keziah, Keeley and Yazmin - of North Walsham Mayor Jacqueline Belson.

Nearby, children queued for a chance to visit Father Christmas in his grotto and the street was filled with stalls and fairground rides. Earlier in the afternoon St Nicholas Parish Church had been filled with families enjoying craft activities including making stained-glass windows, mitres, bunting and advent candles, decorating biscuits and writing cards for a prayer tree.

• Christmas in Swaffham got off with a bang as the community came together to celebrate the town's lights switch-on.

A day full of festivities saw scores of families yesterday flock to the Market Place for stage entertainment, craft and food stalls and fairground rides.

Meanwhile, there was suspense in St Peter and St Paul Church as judges carefully selected the winners of the Great Swaffham Bake Off which saw more than 50 entries and the town's very own Paul Hollywood look-a-like attend. The winners were named as Harry Hunt in the under-16s category and Denise Pettit in the adult's competition.

The highlight of the day was the lights switch-on itself which saw crowds gather to see Mickey and Minnie Mouse light up the town.

After a countdown, there was a bang and puff a smoke as the lights came on.

Town clerk Richard Bishop said: 'It's nice to see all the children and all the families here, that's what it's all about. Even the weather was right.

'It's nice to see the town pulling together.'

• Norwich City Under-18 footballer Cameron King did the honours in Thetford and brought some early festive cheer to the town.

Cameron 18, who grew up in Thetford is currently on crutches after a stress fracture of a toe.

Cameron said: 'It was a real honour to switch on the lights and I really enjoyed the event and the big crowd.'

Children were able to see Santa early this year in his grotto in St Cuthbert's church and other entertainment on offer included fairground rides and special storytelling sessions which were held in St Peter's church.

'The council took that building on as a community asset and it wad the first time we opened the venue since the heating and carpets were put in,' Mayor of Thetford, Stuart Wright, said. 'We have had a great turn out.'

The High Sheriff of Norfolk, Lady Sarah Leicester, who was a special guest at the event, praised the town's strong community spirit.

'It was wonderful, it looked as if the whole of Thetford was out,' she said. 'There was a tremendous community spirit and everyone was there - young and old. There was such a warm feel about the place.'

• The festive season has well and truly arrived in Thorpe St Andrew, after the traditional market and Christmas lights switch on at River Green.

Hundreds of people wrapped up warm in chilly temperatures to see the twinkling lights illuminate the dark winter evening.

Sunday's event, organised by Thorpe St Andrew Town Council, got underway at 4pm, with the ever popular Christmas market on the car park of The Buck Inn. People had the chance to pick up a present or two and sample local products.

Thorpe St Andrew Parish Church hosted a Christingle service and youngsters and the young at heart enjoyed fairground rides.

There was carol singing led by the Vineyard Church as the crowds waited for Father Christmas.

Santa, complete with his reindeer, arrived for the switching on of the lights.

And, to the delight of Norwich City fans in the crowd, there was a special guest to do the honours - Canaries striker Ricky Van Wolfswinkel.

After the lights were turned on, youngsters then got the chance to visit Santa in his grotto to let him know what they would like to get on Christmas Day.

• A popular Christmas fayre was given a new lease of life when it moved forward with a brand new theme.

Wymondham Dickensian Steampunk Fayre provided an early sprinkling of festive cheer when panto star Richard Gauntlett switched the lights on.

The appearance comes just two days before Richard starts rehearsals for this year's Norwich Theatre Royal pantomime Cinderella

The star, who is playing Buttons, said the event was the perfect way to start the panto season.

'I really like Wymondham, it has been lovely to turn the lights on,' he said. 'There was a great reaction from the crowd, many of whom are coming to see the show.'

Thousands of people packed into the town where they were treated to music and street entertainment including a fire display.

The futuristic steampunk theme typically features steam-powered machinery and is set in the Victorian-era. The trend sees men wear tailored suits, top hats and black goggles while women wear gothic dresses with textures including lace and velvet.

He said: 'It has been a complete and utter team effort.

'In a year or two we can make it into one of the best events in the country. We need more events like this in the town.'

Mayor, Dianne Fernee, thanked Mr Gauntlett for helping to kick start Christmas in the town.

'The day has exceeded my expectations,' she said. 'We have had so much positive feedback and everyone looks great.'

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