Fancy hats and fairy tales as festive fun begins
WHISPER it, but it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
Despite the recession and gloomy predictions that the festive season will be 'cancelled' following next month's Budget, businesses and councils have confirmed they will spend hundreds of thousands this year erecting lights, displays and decorations.
Among the first retailers to attempt to dispel the gloom is Brown Thomas, with its famous Christmas windows display unveiled on Dublin's Grafton Street last night.
And while our present may be bleak, this display glories in Ireland's past.
Popular childhood stories like The Children of Lir, Tir na nOg, The Claddagh Ring and The Fairies' Harp are prominent in the lavish designs.
"There is a lot of good things going on in Grafton Street and our windows are designed to bring Irish fairy tales to life," said Brown Thomas creative director John Redmond.
"With the economy, it's nice to give something back."
It's a common refrain, with most city councils contacted by the Irish Independent yesterday planning on expanding the number of streets they decorate this year.
"We'll spend about €250,000 this year, and we do more streets every year so the funding has increased," said Richard Guiney of the Dublin City Business Improvement District group.
Limerick will host the country's tallest Christmas tree, at 100 feet, and will turn on the lights next Friday.
"It's taken four weekends of work to put them up," spokeswoman Laura Ryan said. "There's going to be extra lighting in the city this year with three new streets benefitting -- Bedford Row, Thomas Street and Little Catherine Street -- as well as extra features on the poles and lampposts."
The city has spent €500,000 on lights, and will spend €80,000 erecting, maintaining and dismantling them.
In Cork, the lights are being turned on today. Next Friday, more lights will be turned on at the Christmas market off the Grand Parade.
"The same areas are being covered as last year, so there's no cuts in that," a city council spokeswoman said. "The city council recognises the importance of creating a festive atmosphere in the city centre for visitors."
The Galway City Business Association will spend €70,000 this year. The cost of erecting the lights is paid by local businesses.
"It'll be slightly more than last year because we have the Christmas market opening on November 19," chairman Paul Faller said.
As well as the old Irish tales, the four Brown Thomas windows on Grafton Street also feature work by international and Irish designers, such as hairdresser-turned-milliner Michael Leong who created seven hats to grace the windows and another, less elaborate one to grace the head of last night's VIP guest, Eimear Quinn.
The former Eurovision winner sang for children in the store's Luxury Hall, one day after her husband, Noel Curran, was confirmed as the incoming director-general of RTE.