HUNDREDS of residents braved the wet weather to celebrate the start of the festive period in Christchurch as they turned on their Christmas lights.

ITV Meridian presenter Fred Dinenage joined Mayor of Christchurch Cllr Lesley Dedman on the balcony of the Old Town Hall and pushed down the lever to switch on the lights for the grand Christmas tree and the high-street.

A sea of umbrellas covered the high-street, but the bad weather did little to dampen people’s spirits.

Live performances from the likes of Christchurch Music Centre, Jan’s Gems and the Rock Choir, outside the Christmas festival marquee and Alpine Bar in Saxon Square, helped get people in the festive mood with a mixture of Christmas singalongs as well as choral classics and

Locals had plenty to choose from when it came to food, with German sausages, hog roasts and Mexican, with mulled wine being served all along the street, helping to warm the cockles.

The real-life reindeers were a real hit with families and youngsters before Santa was pulled down the high-street by his very own set of reindeers. A procession of elves and paper lanterns followed, with two nine-foot-tall snow queens also joining in.

The Christchurch Priory Church also hosted its own Advert Fayre and Craft Market, which ran from 10am to 6.30pm. Guests tried their hand at fayre stalls as well as getting some early Christmas shopping done at the various independent craft and bric-a-brac stalls. Mulled wine and other refreshments were also served in the priory café.

Wimborne Minster also held their Christmas lights switch on on Saturday with a large crowd turning out in spite of the very inclement weather.

Children who won prizes in the Mayor's Christmas Card Competition joined the Town Mayor and Mayoress of Wimborne Minster Cllr Shane and Mrs Tracey Bartlett to help the Mayor switch on the Town Lights.

The Minster Choir sang Carols from the stage in the Square, and were joined on stage by Town Crier Chris Brown, Organist and Director of the Choirs at the Minster Colin Davey and Rector of the Minster Reverend Canon Andrew Rowland.