The annual switching on of the Christmas lights is something of an institution in Portlaoise at this stage.
Ordinarily, crowds would flock to Main Street for the big event which, for many people, signals the start of the Christmas season.
However, due to Covid-19, that cannot happen this year and instead, the traders group in Portlaoise are inviting everyone to join them virtually.
Sadly, due to the pandemic, there will be no Christmas Market this year.
But the big switch on will take place on Monday November 30 – and you’ll be able to watch it on the Downtown Portlaoise Facebook page from 7pm.
They say: “Our committee is really looking forward to lighting up our lovely town and we invite everyone to tune in as we do a virtual ‘Festive Lights Switch On’ via the Downtown Portlaoise Facebook page.
“We are very fortunate to have a direct line to Santa Claus in the North Pole and he has agreed to drop in (for just a few moments – that’s all the time he can spare!), this Monday evening November, to help us to switch on, our towns festive lights.
“Our local ‘Downtown Portlaoise’ traders group has been working hard behind the scenes with the Business Support Unit in Laois County Council to ensure that the town enjoys a magical Christmas experience in as much as can be done, in a safe manner.
“Whilst we’re disappointed that owing to Covid restrictions, we are unable to organise our annual outdoor Christmas market – traditionally linked in with the ‘Big Switch on’ of our festive lights, we have a few surprises up our sleeve to ensure Portlaoise enjoys its fair share of festive cheer.
“It’s been a long year and we really want to do what we can to try to ‘change the channel’ even for a short while away from the many challenges that we have all had to meet, as we navigate our way through (and hopefully soon past) this global situation.
“It starts with the switching on of our town’s twinkling Christmas lights.
“We have also been busy working on an extended outdoor sound system in the town centre, which will allow us to pipe cheerful festive music for street pedestrians, as they go about their business.
“With much of Portlaoise ‘re-opening soon for business’, keep a look out for our special Christmas video, which showcases some of what our town has to offer.
“We so look forward to welcoming our valued customers all back safely once again.
“There has been an incredible surge of support throughout this year for local business and a heartfelt thanks is hereby extended by Downtown Portlaoise to these ‘community heroes’, these ‘champions of local’ for their real, tangible sense of solidarity.
“You’ll notice large colourful signs on the main inroads to our town, reflecting this grateful sentiment and a social media campaign in addition.
“This support is very welcome as businesses rallied to find new ways to keep trading, amidst various restrictions.
“Our thanks also to Laois County Council, Laois Partnership, McNulty Electrical, Laois Hire, Tom Ferns, Penhouse Design, Vimar Digital and everyone who helped deliver the above projects for the town.
“We now look forward to a safe & happy festive season together.”