A dazzling array of Christmas lights have transformed a north-east village into an “enchanting winter wonderland”.
Streets, houses and landmarks in Ballater have been lit up with bright festive illuminations to spread some Christmas cheer and raise residents’ spirits.
The village’s usual celebrations – a pipe band, Christmas parade led by Santa Claus and children from the local primary school lighting-up all the street trees – had to be cancelled as a result of the pandemic.
It was one of a huge array of traditional events across Scotland that usually brings communities together that has fallen to Covid-19.
Aberdeen was also forced to change its big Christmas ceremony, with all lights switched-on in a low-key fashion this year, without a big gathering or performances.
However, the community in Ballater decided to band together to create a “magical winter wonderland” for everybody to enjoy, despite the challenges of Covid-19.
Anne Reid, of Ballater Enhancement Group, started the festive initiative in October in an effort to “perk people up” and create something “beautiful”.
She said: “We wanted to do something to cheer people up, because we’ve all had such a harsh and difficult year and this was a way for everybody to feel the Christmas spirit in a safe way.
“You can drive by and see the lights, go for a walk with your family and friends, or even just look at them through your window.
“We lit up the town with so much Christmas sparkle that you can even see it from a fair distance – I suspect you’d be able to see it even from the moon.”
Ms Reid added: “Everybody was feeling really down because of everything that’s been happening and everything seemed dark and gloomy.
“Then, suddenly, we’ve got that little bit of light in the centre of Ballater and I could hear people laughing, see smiles on their faces and I just knew that we’ve achieved exactly what we wanted – we’ve brought joy and cheer with our Winter Wonderland.”
The big switch-on brought together a number of locals – who gathered in a physically distant manner – to watch their village light up.
Christmas fairy lights have been used to decorate all of the trees along the main roads leading to the town centre.
The Glenmuick Church, which is located at the very heart of the village, has also been illuminated, with festive sculptures of Santa and a reindeer posed in its grounds.
The highlight of the “winter wonderland” is the church’s apex, whose shining lights can be seen from miles away.
Ms Reid said none of what has been achieved would have been possible without the help of the community.
Two years ago, Aberdeenshire council changed its policy for power provision in Ballater, which meant locals could no longer use the council energy supply to put Christmas lights on.
Ms Reid set up a justgiving page in October in an effort to raise £5,000 for the magical Christmas transformation of the village, which was received by the local community with “a lot of enthusiasm”.
“The community spirit in Ballater normally is absolutely fantastic, but everybody just went the extra mile for this”, she said.
“I wasn’t sure how much we would be able to raise with the justgiving page, but once I set it up, donations were just going up and up all the time, with people saying how this is a fantastic idea and how we are all in this together.
“We ended up raising over £5,000 from personal and public donations and so many people from the community – the Ballater Enhancement Group, the Ballater Chiels, friends and families – helped with making our wonderland a reality.”
Connect at Christmas campaign