THE CHRISTMAS countdown will officially begin in Braintree this weekend when the festive lights are lit up for the first time.

The annual event will take over the town centre on Saturday and see a host of activities on offer alongside the monthly street market.

Festive entertainment will get under way from noon with live music from local singers, dance groups, carol performances from schools as well as fun activities for children all available.

The main Christmas lights in Market Place will be switched on at 5.30pm but George Yard shopping centre will be hosting its own switch-on at 5pm to help wet the appetite for visitors.

A Santa parade is scheduled to take place after the George Yard switch-on which will feature musicians and dancers. Members of the public are invited to dress up and take part in the parade.

Further live music and entertainment from Boars Head Productions will be available at the other end of High Street near St Michael’s Church between 1pm and 6pm.

More than 100 street stalls are expected to be lined up throughout the town centre offering visitors an array of food, drinks and gifts.

Face-painting, a children’s ride and a street team giving away free goodies will be on hand to provide extra fun for those who want to make the most of their day.

There will also be several events over the course of the day across the town, including free children’s crafts at Braintree Museum, a 1920s pop-up bar and an indoor craft market at Braintree Town Hall, and the chance to meet Father Christmas at his grotto alongside giant shiny baubles and a special Christmas fairy in George Yard.

Braintree Council’s economic development boss Tom Cunningham said: “Our Christmas light switch-on is always a great community event and marks the start of Christmas in Braintree.

“The atmosphere is going to be terrific so we hope to see lots of people in the town centre and join in on the festive celebrations with us – you don’t want to miss out.”

The switch-on is free and all are welcome.

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