Aleksanterinkatu in Helsinki gets its festive lighting for the 68th time, when the traditional opening of the Christmas Street takes place on Sunday 20 November. Before the official opening programme, the Goodwill Market opens on the Senate Square at 2pm. The opening festivities and programme start by the stairs of the Helsinki Cathedral at 3pm. Mayor Jussi Pajunen turns on the festive lighting at 4pm. The opening festivities end with a parade, which runs from the Senate Square through the city centre at 4–5pm. Fairy-tale stars from the Finnish National Ballet will also participate in the parade.
The energy efficient LED-lights of the Christmas Street will bring joy to the citizens until the end of January.
"The Aleksanterinkatu Christmas Street brings a festive mood to the Helsinki city centre. At the same time, it is one of Finland's oldest Christmas traditions, which connects citizens of three generations. The opening has become a cheerful public festival, which lights up the Christmas mood and engages the whole family", says Mayor Jussi Pajunen.
The event starts with delicacies at the Goodwill Market
Before the official programme, charity organisations sell Christmas delicacies such as rice pudding, mulled wine and Christmas confectionaries at the Goodwill Market, which opens at 2pm.
The programme by the stairs of the Helsinki Cathedral starts at 3pm. The event is hosted by Brother Christmas, renowned for a number of charity events. The Ellun Kamut choir sings and leads the singing of Christmas songs and Watchdog Veikko entertains the children. The artist stars of the opening event programme are Scandinavian Hunks, LEO and Rajaton.
Father Christmas and Mayor Jussi Pajunen arrive at the Senate Square with HKL's museum tram. The traditional numbers of the programme include the blessing of the Salvation Army's Christmas Kettle campaign and a greeting from the Helsinki Cathedral Parish. The event culminates when Father Christmas bring his greetings from Korvatunturi and the Mayor lights the Christmas lights at 4pm.
National Ballet again part of the Christmas Parade
When the lights have been lit, the Christmas Parade starts its journey on a new longer route through the city centre. After Aleksanterinkatu, the Parade runs along Mannerheimintie to the right, makes a U-turn at the Kaivokatu crossing and returns to the Senate Square along Pohjoisesplanadi. The crowd along the streets can enjoy the Christmas cheer of the parade at 4–5pm.
The parade is joined by the Finnish National Ballet's impressive group of tens of characters from the Nutcracker and the Mouse King ballet, and the parade is topped off by Father Christmas and his elves. Recurring participants are mounted police officers, animal characters, dogs, museum fire trucks and equipment from the Helsinki rescue department, if not on alarm duties. New participants are HIFK's ice hockey league team and 2007 juniors. Having participated in the programme, Brother Christmas, Watchdog Veikko, Ellun Kamut and the volunteers of the Goodwill Market will also join in.
The opening event of the Aleksanterinkatu Christmas Street is arranged by Helsinki City Marketing in cooperation with the City of Helsinki.