Thornton-le-Dale spreads Christmas joy – with a twist

This story was published 8 December 2020

Christmas might be different for everyone across North Yorkshire this year – but residents of Thornton-le-Dale have made sure one vital thing can still be enjoyed.

Thornton-le-dale Christmas lights

Their Christmas lights switch on had a twist this year – instead of being the much-appreciated public event it normally is, it took place in private.

But the festivities have been put together into a video for everyone to enjoy safely from their own homes – and thousands of people have viewed it since Saturday.

The clip, which was put together by County Councillor Janet Sanderson, shows the Christmas lights going up in the village in preparation for their switch, showcasing the army of volunteers who give up their time to bring seasonal spirit to Thornton-le-Dale.

It also looks at the festive efforts of children from Thornton Dale Primary School and their Christmas card competition entries – and, of course, viewers get to experience the magic of the lights switch-on from the comfort of their own homes.

The Christmas lights switch-on is a 34-year tradition in the village and is supported entirely by volunteers.

The lights are put up in preparation for the switch on – as seen in the video – throughout October and November. This year, they were up before the second lockdown was announced.

Two qualified electricians completed testing of the lights to make sure they were working and ready to go.

Usually, up to a thousand people come to see the lights switched on, but this year that wasn’t possible due to the Covid-19 restrictions.

So Cllr Janet Sanderson came up with the idea of putting together the video instead, which people were invited to watch on 5 December. The video is already racking up thousands of views, showing the community spirit is as strong as ever.

Dave Andrews, Chairman of the Christmas Lights Committee, said: “The committee consulted about the lights display, with a risk assessment of our ability to work safely and the willingness of volunteers to participate.

“Overwhelmingly the volunteers said yes. The people of the village with a high proportion of older people were enduring a regime of gloom and doom and needed/deserved some Christmas Cheer provided by a full Christmas lights display as usual.

“North Yorkshire County Council, via Cllr Janet Sanderson, granted £400 to purchase the required PPE and we set about devising safe working processes.

“We decided to continue working with the village primary school Christmas card design competition, giving prizes for first, second and third in each of the seven classes.

“The overall winning child traditionally switches on the lights display and their winning design is printed on the front of the next year’s Christmas card, which the volunteers print and deliver to all 900 houses in the village.”

On Saturday, the winner of the Christmas card competition was invited to turn on the lights at a private ceremony – turning them on with a sanitised remote.

The Ryedale Lions visited with their Santa sleigh and toured the village, too, which is shown in the video. The virtual choir also sing Silent Night in the clip.

Dave added: “As Chairman of the Thornton-le-Dale Christmas Lights, I am privileged to see the enthusiasm, commitment and hard work of the community volunteers.

“There are too many to thank personally, much as I would love to do, but the village has its Christmas cheer and on behalf of all the residents, I say happy Christmas and thank you to everyone who contributed.”

Cllr Janet Sanderson added: “After a year like no other, myself and other members of the village felt the Christmas cheer brought by the light switch on was vital and needed.

“Although we couldn’t do it in the conventional way, the lights are on for all to see every evening – and people can get the spirit of the switch-on with the video.

“The fact that the lights are a tradition put together entirely by volunteers is testament to our community spirit and this embodies it.

“I’d like to thank everyone who took part and helped.”

Usually, the switch-on raises money for the lights the following year.

The video can be viewed here.