What is it about Christmas lights that make us all go misty eyed and utter sounds like a donkey in labour? By the way I’m not including the 7-hour untangling trauma with the Christmas tree lights the year before last…I’m over that… I REALLY AM! They went up a dream this year thanks to rolling them round a log so that I knew where they started and where they ended. No I’m talking about the lights that turn our otherwise pretty drab city centres into fairyland. Sparkling icicles and giant snowflakes dripping off the roofs of shops and even managing to bring a charm to the all too many boarded up buildings in our high streets. Even more exciting than just looking at the Christmas lights is being part of the performance of turning them on. And it is always a performance as invariably the place where they want you to do the ‘switch on’ is in the middle of hundreds of people. Then it’s the ‘will they won’t they’ work? Often it’s a ‘fake’ plunger that’s used. The real ‘switch on’ is done by some poor electrician 20 feet away who has to coordinate the timing otherwise you end up with that comedy gold moment that I have seen so often on stage of the phone ringing the actor picking it up ..and phone continuing to ring. I speak from experience, as I was once lucky enough to be part of a company of pantomime performers who turned on the lights in London’s Regent Street. I have a sketchy memory of getting all togged up in my fairy costume, with Leslie Josephs and Britt Eckland, going to the top floor of Marshall and Snellgrove, walking self consciously through their very staid men’s department to a small balcony overlooking the crowds below, to press the plunger! Let’s just say the timing was a little ‘off’. It happened again a couple of years back in a small Devon village. It was blowing a gale and pouring with rain and I couldn’t recognise any of the organisers as everyone was dressed as an elf or some such creature. Eventually I was bustled into the church tower started the countdown only for an elderly member of the committee, who had no idea why I was there, to press the plunger when we got to 3! Oh how we laughed! All very professional though the year I helped perform the task in my hometown of Plymouth whilst appearing in the panto at the Theatre Royal. And an honour to share the podium in Exeter one year with the wonderful Jo Pavey. Then a couple of years ago I joined a radio station in Torquay to light up the town. Oh yes there was another wet ’n windy night in Sidmouth proving even the less showy displays in some of the smallest towns and villages bring magic once darkness falls. This year I was asked if I would do the honours at a private community event in Exeter. Or rather would I bring the ‘rabbit’ to perform the task! All by the book a permissible number of residents gathered on the communal green others in their gardens and balconies. Muggins made the speech ….the rabbit posed for the photos! But the most meaningful lights for me at this time of year are the 8 candles I light on my menorah for the Jewish festival of Chanukah the ‘Festival of Lights’ that commemorates the Jews’ struggle for religious freedom. Still as relevant today as it was in 164 BC. Whatever your beliefs whatever you are celebrating may it be warm and peaceful.