WATERFORD city centre twinkles resplendently after dark, in spite of the traditional launch of the festive shopping season having come and gone without fanfare. The official ‘switch on’ took place last Thursday evening in the presence of Mayor of Waterford Damien Geoghegan, very excited little boy, Noah O’Sullivan, and Santa himself. It was streamed live online, a gesture in recognition of one of the city’s most important events on our annual calendar.
The Christmas shopping season in Waterford is a crucial time of year for the retail trade – providing the economic stimulus needed for businesses to survive through the leaner months. The light ‘switch on’ and visit of Santa is also a significant social event for Waterford people, and one which traditionally sees the streets thronged for that all important peek by our younger citizens of the man in red. It is feelgood, and heralds in the festive season, which in Waterford has become ever more imaginative each year, as Winterval successfully fashioned a festival event that enticed people to visit from across Ireland. Waterford could indeed lay claim to the title Ireland’s Christmas Capital.
‘We each have an opportunity to think and act Waterford first, that choice will make all the difference.’
So it was poignant this year that only a sparse few were present as the beautiful display of Christmas lights twinkled to life once more along Waterford city’s streets.
With the government expected to announce, towards the end of this week, their plan for the country in December as the current lockdown is due to finish, we are at a crossroads. The Covid numbers nationally are not where the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) would like them to be. In Waterford, we’ve seen that while days pass with relatively small increases in Covid cases, the past fortnight has also seen substantial jumps in virus infections locally. Our news reports also reflect that presence of Covid 19 within our community, with cases in schools and factories.
Individual responsibility will play a significant role in December, as families at home and abroad consider their plans for the Christmas season, travelling, socialising and where they will enjoy December 25. It is not going to be an easy time, and with daily Covid figures nationally staying stubbornly above 300, it will inevitably pose a risk to our more vulnerable age groups at a time when generations of families come together. Some suggest keeping contacts to a minimum in order to better safeguard that those most dear to us are here to celebrate Christmas again next year. Christmas 2020 will involve difficult decisions but with a vaccine now looking very probable, it could be only a matter of a few months before we see a semblance of normality return. We are not without that very promising hope.
In the meantime, the ingenuity of our retailers continues apace – with substantial numbers of businesses now operating online. It is still possible – and in fact very convenient – to shop locally.
The streets might be physically deserted at the moment, but that does not equate to an absence of potential. The beautiful light display is a beacon in the winter dark that Waterford is still very much open. Perhaps as a starting point pick up a copy of the Festive Star, the Waterford News & Star’s Christmas Annual, and check out its centre pages for Jessica Manning’s smorgasbord of fantastic local businesses and gift ideas. We each have an opportunity to think and act Waterford first, that choice will make all the difference.