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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 October 2007, 08:31 GMT 09:31 UK
Forget Halloween, where's Santa?
Never mind witches and ghouls - it's more a case of jingle bells in one County Antrim town.

For even though Halloween has yet to arrive and Christmas is still almost two months away - Ballymena has already put up its tree.

The tree has pride of place in the town - in October
The tree has pride of place in the town - in October

The lights will be turned on on 1 November - 55 days before Christmas, making it perhaps the first town in the British Isles to light up for the festive season.

Even Oxford Street in London does not light up until 7 November and the Belfast switch-on takes place 13 days after that.

Ballymena's retail sector believes the early switch-on will help generate a Christmas atmosphere for shoppers who want to get their presents early.

Town Centre Manager Colin Neil said it took a considerable amount of time erect the vast array of lights.

"All those lovely lights you see twinkling up above you when you are walking through the streets have to actually be bolted up, connected to the electrical supply, tested, all the requirements," he said.

"Think of dressing your own Christmas tree and multiply that... it is a labour intensive job."

He said some people had already started their Christmas shopping but the majority of people would begin early in November.

"Traditionally, we have got to prepare for the Christmas season, it takes time to get all the infrastructure in place," he said.

"I'm just preparing to make sure all the shoppers who come to Ballymena have a really good Christmas."

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