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Christmas season opens on Saturday 19 November

This year, Helsinki’s Christmas season will open with a glittering parade on the occasion of turning on the Christmas lights on Aleksanterinkatu (‘Aleksi’). Unlike in previous years, there will be no separate opening event at Senate Square this year, but the parade will be all the more spectacular.
Christmas lights on Aleksanterinkatu in 2020.
Christmas lights on Aleksanterinkatu in 2021. Photo: Ants Vahter

Helsinki’s city centre will be adorned in Christmas lights for the 74th time. The tradition began in 1949, when the merchants of Aleksanterinkatu and its surrounding areas decorated the streets with lights and pine cones for the enjoyment of the people. 

Helsinki City Markkinointi ry’s Christmas Opening parade will feature winter circus characters and dance troupes alongside traditional dog teams, vintage fire engines and groups of elves. This year’s parade will see a record number of participants: more than 300 people and a wide variety of vehicles and horses.
 
One of the most spectacular attractions in the procession will be performers from Tivoli Sariola’s and Sirkus Finlandia’s TsigaBoom! Helsinki City Theatre will also be involved with characters from its play ‘A Christmas Carol’.

The parade will also feature the Linnanmäki Circus School, Dance Point Loiste’s Snow Queen group, the Hospital Clowns, Samba Sinestesia’s drum group and the Brewery Horses.

Groups of children from Snellmaninkatu Primary School will take part in the parade, as well as several different groups of dog breeds and their owners: broholmers, basset hounds, dalmatians and golden retrievers.

The parade will naturally be led by the most awaited guest of Christmas, Santa Claus straight from Korvatunturi! The Mayor of Helsinki Juhana Vartiainen will also take part in the parade with the schoolchildren. 

“The opening of the Christmas Street marks the beginning of the Christmas season for many. This year in particular, the importance of community spirit is being highlighted, and now it feels especially important to come together to celebrate this great tradition. I hope that as many people as possible will come to watch the turning on of the Christmas lights and the joyful parade in Aleksi,” says Mayor Juhana Vartiainen. 

The Mayor’s Christmas greeting video will be released before the opening of the Christmas Street on Helsinkikanava.fi and on the city’s social media channels. 

For energy-saving reasons, the City of Helsinki has decided that the Christmas lights in public areas will be kept on this winter only from the opening of Christmas Street until the end of the Epiphany weekend on 8 January 2023. However, most of the Christmas lights, such as those on Aleksanterinkatu, get their electricity from the adjacent properties, so it is up to the property owners to decide.

Parade to light up Aleksi

The parade will leave from Senate Square at around 4 p.m. and proceed along Aleksanterinkatu to Mannerheimintie from where it will continue along Pohjoisesplanadi to Unioninkatu and from there back to Senate Square. It will take about one hour for it to cover the route.

The Christmas lights on Aleksanterinkatu will gradually come on as the Christmas parade gets moving, so find a good spot along the street early and come along to enjoy the magical atmosphere. The number of visitors during the event in the city centre and along the streets has been as high as 25,000–35,000 every year.

A large number of volunteers, including assistants, mounted police and dozens of stewards, are helping to build the event.

Toy collection for those in need

This year, we will hold a toy collection in connection with the opening of Christmas Street. The parade audience is invited to donate both new and second-hand toys in good condition. The toy collection vehicle will be parked at Three Smiths Square on Saturday, 19 November, from 12.00 to 18.00.

Helsinki’s Christmas Opening organisers hope that those who come to admire the lighting of the Christmas lights also remember those in need through the toy collection.

Helsinki Mission will be responsible for the distribution of the donated toys. New toys will be delivered to the New Children’s Hospital patients, and second-hand toys will be given to other children in need.