Christmas lights will be switched on in Ballymena on Thursday November 19

Ballymena prepares for Christmas.

THE Christmas lights switch-on in Ballymena is Thursday November 19, the Council confirmed today.

Social distancing guidelines because of the pandemic means there will be no gathering of crowds like years gone by.

It is understood the lights will be turned on at an undisclosed time on Thursday November 19 to prevent crowds from gathering.

“Christmas will look different this year due to the need for us all to work together to protect the health of our community,” explained Mayor of Mid and East Antrim, Councillor Peter Johnston.

“While we are unable to hold events where people might gather in large numbers, we will still all be able to share in the magic of Christmas, albeit virtually and from the comfort of our own homes.

“Council has been instrumental in helping our local businesses take every step possible to ensure we can all shop safely in our towns and villages, so we will still be able to pick up gifts for those we love at Christmas time.

“I am also very conscious that Christmas will be a difficult time for many in our community, particularly those who have lost loved ones or who find themselves under financial pressure because of the pandemic.

“But there are so many wonderful charities and community organisations who continue to go above and beyond to help families and individuals right across our borough all through the year.

“I encourage everyone to safely #Rediscover the #SpiritofMEA this Christmas and to remain confident that brighter days are ahead in the New Year,” said the Mayor.

A Council spokesperson said they also finalising plans for “three small outdoor Christmas markets” in Larne, Ballymena and Carrickfergus over the festive period “to provide vital support for our local retailers who face huge economic pressures as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic”.

The Christmas Markets are subject to Northern Ireland Executive restrictions and guidance, and the Council are continuing to closely monitor the situation and will adapt plans based on the guidance.

The safety of communities is the Council’s “top priority throughout the pandemic and we will continue to follow the direction and guidance of the Northern Ireland Executive and Public Health Agency in protecting the public.

“The Christmas lights will be switched on virtually in Ballymena on Thursday 19 November, Larne Friday 20 November and Carrickfergus Saturday 21 November. We urge all those in our community to watch the magic from home on these dates. Check our website for more information. #SpiritofMEA #ShopSafe #SupportLocal”

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