It was far from a silent night when more than 1,000 schoolchildren filled Guildhall Square for an evening of carols.
The Lord Mayor of Portsmouth, Cllr Cheryl Buggy, flipped the switch last night to kick off the city’s most popular festive event.
As the square’s huge Christmas tree flashed into light youngsters from 28 schools raised their voices to belt out yuletide favourites, including Away in a Manger, Little Donkey and We Wish You a Merry Christmas.
The official Christmas lights switch-on was also attended by hundreds of parents, friends and onlookers who soaked up the festive atmosphere and sang along with the huge choir assembled on the Guildhall steps.
Above them the square’s big screen flashed images of a roaring fire and decorated Christmas tree while speakers sent the carols echoing across the city.
And as a special treat for those braving the chilly conditions, Father Christmas put in an appearance, racing around the tree in a carriage pulled by two white horses.
Debbie Dodsworth, 38, of Carisbrooke Road, in Southsea, watched her seven-year-old daughter Caitlin, of St Swithun’s School, singing her heart out on the Guildhall steps.
‘I didn’t realise it was going to be as special as it was,’ said Debbie.
‘Afterwards Caitlin said she was really nervous, but that she would remember it forever. We will definitely be coming every year from now on.’
Jack Tupper, 11, of Essex Road, Southsea, said: ‘It was excellent, very nerve-wracking, and absolutely freezing.’
The Salvation Army Portsmouth Citadel Band provided the evening’s music while a conductor from the Portsmouth Schools’ Music Service led the carol singing.
Each school was also asked to donate two presents, which will now be given out to disadvantaged children across the city.
The organiser of the event, Portsmouth City Council officer Danielle Milasinovic, said she was delighted with how the evening had gone.
‘It’s a perfect Christmas event,’ she said. ‘The children love it and every year we get a huge turnout.
‘But this year the weather was just right so there were even more people than usual.’