CHRISTMAS is set to arrive in Festival Place this Saturday, however, there are no details of an official light switch-on.

The centre is marking the start of the festivities on November 13, with the celebrations inspired by a traditional Christmas spent with friends and family.

Hundreds of scarlet poinsettias and intricate light displays will wow visitors to the shopping centre, providing a festive backdrop to a poinsettia Christmas tree which will take pride of place in St John’s Square, decorated in red, gold, and cream.

A host of colourful Christmas characters including a fox, hare, penguin, reindeer, bird, and polar bear will roam the centre entertaining shoppers with theatre, dance, music, and storytelling.

Mrs Christmas will also be on hand to sprinkle a little magic as she carries out small acts of random kindness.

While Santa will take up residence in a traditional grotto, where visitors can take part in festive workshops and dress up for a festive photo.

For those doing their Christmas shopping, The Happy Wrappy gift wrapping service will be on hand to help out in aid of St Michael’s Hospice.

The festive event is taking place on Saturday between 10am and 7pm.

However, the Gazette understands there will be no official light switch on taking place, as has happened in previous years.

Festival Place has not held an official light switch on since 2018, when its festive event hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Visitors described the switch-on as “chaotic” and an “absolute shambles”, claiming there was “nothing Christmassy” as organisers failed to provide a tree or Santa Claus, instead choosing to light up a giant owl.

It was not the first time a light switch-on in Basingstoke has caused chaos. In 1999 TV hardman Ross Kemp switched on the lights drawing an unexpectedly large crowd of 10,000 people.

Four people were taken to hospital in a crush and the show had to be abandoned.

This year, centre director of Festival Place hopes the day-long activities will keep visitors happy.

Neil Churchill said: “We all love a heart-warming, traditional Christmas, and the Festival Place team will be pulling out all the stops to create something truly magical this year.”

He added: “We’ve all had a tough couple of years. We’ve had to adapt to extremely challenging circumstances and spend time apart from the people we love.

“This year, we want people to spend Christmas together and make it more festive than ever. Whether they’re hunting for the perfect present or getting together for a celebratory meal, we’re determined to deliver Christmas as it should be.

“It will be six weeks of joyful festive fun – and Festival Place’s huge range of top-brand retailers, leisure facilities and restaurants will all be helping to make this year’s Christmas one to remember.”

Festival Place was asked for a comment regarding the light switch-on and its reasons behind the decision not to hold one this year.

A spokesperson said: "We are looking forward to a jam-packed day of festive fun which will launch six weeks’ worth of festive activities. There will be a whole host of events to keep shoppers entertained, which have been received really well in previous years.

"With magical roaming acts, pop up photo opportunities, not forgetting Santa’s grotto, there will be something for the whole family to enjoy."