Christmas is coming, and our high streets are again aglow with festive lights, despite the lockdown that suggests.
People have turned out in large numbers every year in towns and villages across Kent in the past to celebrate the switching on of the seasonal decorations, but that will not be the case this year thanks to Covid.
But while things might be a little different, individuals are always seeking ways to mark this annual landmark.
In Canterbury, a special online film of the illuminations being turned on by the mayor and the panto dame of the Marlowe Theatre, Nurse Nellie, was followed by five miles of festive lights adorning the city center.
In Maidstone, in lieu of conventional live entertainment, a Hidden Turn On the video, arranged by One Maidstone Offer, featured Christmas messages from the businesses of the city and pre-recorded song and dance routines.
But while we’re going to find new ways to celebrate, we figured it would be a good idea to dive into the archives and dig out a host of pictures from past Christmases with sparkling lights, happy crowds, and a fair few soap stars doing their bit to launch the festive party.
So charge your glasses with mulled wine, smash the thin pies, and join us on a sleigh ride down the lane of memory.
Over the years, the local mayor has been an omnipresent participant at several city switch-on activities and whenever the town is fortunate enough to have a theater, the local panto stars, too.
Gary and Laura from kmfm have hosted the shows for several towns in recent years, egging on the crowds to join the count-down for Christmas.
But to help with the holiday cheer, several cities have enjoyed splashing out on big name celebrities.
Guests included Maidstone X-Factor and Dancing On Ice star Jake Quickenden, who was also seen in Hollyoaks on Channel 4. In a bit of a contrast, last year he appeared on stage with children from Molehill Primary Academy.
In 2016, TV presenter Stephen Mulhern of Catchphrase and Britain’s Got More Talent fame appeared in Canterbury, while comedian and Dancing On Ice contestant Joe Pasquale delighted the crowds at Dartford the same year.
In Rochester, Towie stars Diags Beeneworth and Tom Pearce (2013) appeared in the crowd, while the ever-popular former EastEnder Shaun Williamson appeared in Dover in 2003.
Craig Fairbrass at Tunbridge Wells in 2001 was another EastEnder to make an appearance, and also Adam Woodyatt at Folkestone the same year, but in 2005 Dover favored Neighbours star Ryan Moloney, better known as Jarrod “Toadfish” Rebecchi.
Whitstable, which in 2001 called on the services of another Neighbours star, Daniel MacPherson, more recently seen in the Shannara Chronicles, was another town to look down on for its talent.
In 2009, Deal played it for laughs with two comedians, Ade Edmundson of the Young Ones and Bottom TV, and the local guy, Dave Lee, born in Broadstairs. Sadly, when Mr. Lee passed away just two years later, the laughter stopped.
Dartfordhas, along with actress and host Denise Van Outen, enjoyed Britain’s Got Talent stars Twist and Pulse.
With Love Island star and former Page 3 model India Reynolds, Broadstairs opted for glamour in 2019. She appeared with Sam Thompson, the star of Made In Chelsea.
With last year’s lights turned on by Booker award-winning author Ben Okri, Folkestone has sounded a more intellectual note at times.
Some towns and villages eager to lend a hand have their own local celebrities.
Comedian Vic Reeves and his model wife Nancy Sorrell attended the Headcorn celebrations in 2005, while Tonbridge played in 2004 with its very own double Olympic Gold Medal winner, Kelly Holmes.
Not everyone can afford stars, of course, so sometimes the next best thing is a star lookalike. In 2017, Dartford opted for the Robbie Williams Experience, enjoying a champion show the year before from Freddie Mercury impersonator Gary Goodmaze.
But the cartoon or animated film characters are more common even than the celebrities – particularly with the children who usually make up the largest part of the Christmas audiences.
Shrek, along with Bob and Kevin of the Minions, appeared at Rainham, Po from Kung Fu Panda at Strood, and most recently The Grinch appeared in Maidstone’s virtual switch-on video.
Winnie The Pooh appeared in Dartford, Rainham’s Paddington Bear and Buzz Lightyear and Woody from Faversham’s Toy Story and Dartford’s Gruffalo.
Some cities have enjoyed spicing up activities with something a little different. Sandwich has taken advantage of its waterside position to throw illuminated boats along the River Stour in a Crazyboater parade. They were encountered inexplicably by a land-based parade led by crews from Sandwich Fire Station.
By using a voice activation key to turn on the lights, Dover likes to get the audience to join in.
The fans have to yell “Dover” as loudly as they can, instead of the Mayor flicking a switch.
Last year, Sheerness introduced a parade of more than 200 lanterns to its Christmas decorations, while the Minster-on-Sea case is often followed by the Santa Saunter – a parade of dozens of Santas, rustled by the local Rotary Club from their homes in Lapland.
To build the right festive atmosphere, Tenterden has made use of a snow machine.