New Christmas lights in Birmingham city centre will have a distinctive Christian theme this year.
Designs incorporating angels, stars and aspects of the Nativity will be seen in Colmore Row and around St Philip’s Cathedral.
Festive decorations have also been extended for the first time to the Bus Mall, near Moor Street Station, and the retail area as part of a £590,000 investment in new lights.
Ten years ago, Birmingham became the subject of national ridicule after the council controversially rebranded Christmas as Winterval to avoid offending non-Christians – a move which was described as “madness” by the then Bishop of Birmingham.
Since then, the council has tended to mix a limited number of Christian lights with other mainly secular decorations.
Canon Stewart Jones, Rector of Birmingham and spokesman for Believing in Birmingham – a network of church communities in the city – welcomed the new approach.
He said: “We are delighted that the council’s new Christmas lights portray something of the true meaning of this very important Christian festival.
“As churches we work closely together to share the joy of the Christmas message and these lights will greatly enhance all our celebrations.”
Cabinet transportation member Len Gregory said the council’s old Christmas lights needed replacing as refurbishment was no longer cost effective.
The new decorations are being described as low carbon and environmentally friendly.
Coun Gregory (Con Billesley) added: “The new Christmas lights, utilising new energy-efficient technology, will use up to 75 per cent less energy than the old lights, so helping us meet our commitment to reduce energy consumption, which in turn helps to reduce our carbon footprint.
“Overall, the lighting will be much more in keeping with Birmingham’s status as a major shopping and visitor destination and will be an added attraction to the many thousands of visitors who flock to the city during the busy festive season.”
Retail Birmingham chairman Alan Chatham said the new lights would add to the city centre’s popularity as a Christmas shopping destination.
Mr Chatham added: “The Christmas period is the most important time of the year for our members and by creating an attractive, festive shopping environment, we hope to attract more visitors than ever and help our retailers trade strongly.
“This year Birmingham was once again named the best shopping destination outside London’s West End.
“However, we are determined to get to the number one spot by creating a spectacular shopping environment like none other in the UK,” he added.
“The new Christmas lights are another step towards achieving this.”
The lights will be switched on at the annual free concert at Millennium Point on November 8 from 3pm to 7pm.
Alesha Dixon, a former winner of TV’s Strictly Come Dancing show, and Brit-pop band Scouting for Girls, will headline the concert.
Other “top acts” will be confirmed nearer the time, according to the council. The weekend marks the start of the Birmingham’s Christmas celebrations, which include the opening of the Frankfurt Christmas Market on November 13.
Other events include a Reindeer and Lantern Parade on November 23. the Thomas Vale Pantomime Horse Grand National on the November 30 and Carols in the City on December 13.