THE festive celebrations got underway in Pickering, Helmsley and Thornton-le-Dale at the weekend.

In Pickering, the town hosted a Christmas market, along with Morris dancers, Stape Silver Band and a raffle to win an enormous Chocolate House. There was also a town treasure hunt and a visit by Father Christmas on his sleigh, followed by the switching on of the Christmas lights.

Meanwhile, the switch-on of Thornton-le-Dale’s Christmas lights also took place on Saturday with stalls and seasonal food. There was also music and a reading from the Reverend Jo White before the lights switch-on.

In Helmsley, the town celebrated Small Business Saturday to coincide with the Christmas light switch-on.

Events were held throughout the day culminating in the switch-on by TV’s Yorkshire Vet Julian Norton and a procession up to the annual Christmas Tree Festival. The festival, which this year has the theme of stars, will run until December 17, at All Saints Church, and is open daily, from 10am to 4pm.

Jacky Pickering, chairman of Helmsley in Business, said: “We were delighted at the turn-out for our Christmas light switch-on.There was a lovely atmosphere and everyone seemed to have lots of fun.

“Thank you to the lovely Julian Norton and our town crier for performing the big switch-on, and for the talented Swinton Brass Band for providing the festive music. Santa’s Grotto was a huge success, and the children enjoyed meeting the man of the season.

“As always Helmsley’s wonderful independent businesses rose to the occasion of Small Business Saturday and did us proud. The run-up to Christmas is a truly magical time in town and we look forward to welcoming visitors and sharing it with them.”