Neither the threat of bad weather nor the energy crisis have managed to stop the turning on of the Christmas lights in Madrid. The event, which, like every year, kicks off the celebrations of the festivities in the capital, has brought together thousands of people in the Plaza de España. Many tourists, but also families and young people, have wanted to secure a place in the front line to see the show, even if it has meant waiting a couple of hours. “I never miss it. Like the lights of Madrid there are no others in Spain. Now the festivities really begin”, says Maricarmen Pascal, a resident of Getafe, excited.
From the applause to the light on the balconies: the residents of Madrid who anticipate the Christmas lighting of Almeida
The wait ended a few minutes before 7:30 p.m., when the mayor of the city, José Luis Martínez Almeida, took the stage. He was accompanied by Lucio Blázquez, a businessman from the well-known restaurant Casa Lucio, who has pressed the button that turns on the 230 lighting installations spread throughout the 21 districts of Madrid.
For the second consecutive year, the Plaza de España has managed to wrest the limelight from the Puerta del Sol, whose tree made of plastic branches and light bulbs has been kept off this Thursday to avoid crowds in the square, which is under construction. In addition to the giant natural fir tree in the Plaza de España, the great ball on Calle de Alcalá, located in front of the Metropolis building, and the 10-meter-tall menina on Paseo del Prado have also returned.
Contrary to other cities in the country, where it was decided to reduce the switching on of light bulbs by one hour to deal with the energy crisis, Madrid will maintain normal hours and all the installations that already decorated the streets in other years. Until next January 6, the capital will be illuminated from Sunday to Thursday in the time slot from 6:00 p.m. to midnight, and until 1:00 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The budget this year is close to 4 million, registering an increase of almost half a million compared to 2021 “due to the rise in inflation,” according to the Consistory.
180 euros per hour of ignition
The City Council claims to “be aware of the energy situation”, alleging that for this reason “Christmas lighting has been installed for years that is 100% LED”. “The consumption cost of an hour of Christmas lighting is about 180 euros, which is less than one euro a day per illuminated location,” says a spokesman for the City Hall Works area, in charge of lighting. The administration has justified its decision by stressing that the cost of its Christmas lighting is less than that generated by a football field during the 90 minutes of a game, which with its “25,000 kWh” spends “four times more than one night of all lighting Christmas in Madrid”.
Among the thousands of people waiting in a crowded Plaza de España are also Luis José and his family, who have come from Valencia to attend the show in Madrid. His six-year-old daughter Julia seems to enjoy the fireworks more than the lights illuminating the giant fir tree. “It’s the first time we’ve come here since the pandemic,” explains her father. “This year feels different. Despite the crisis and concerns, we really want to celebrate.”
There are also those who express their doubts about the energy deployment involved in keeping the city illuminated for more than a month. “I don’t understand why the shop windows have to go out at eleven, and the lights stay on until late. If there is an energy crisis, you have to cut everything ”, says Manuela Fernández, who despite her doubts has not wanted to lose the ignition.
In addition to the typical arches of light that decorate the main avenues from side to side, this year there are 6,700 chains, 115 cherry trees and 13 large luminous fir trees scattered throughout the streets and parks of the city. For the fifth consecutive year, the Gran Vía maintains the decoration of cats playing in a starry sky, while Arenal street and Canalejas square have new lighting: the first Christmas tree balls and the second luminous strips.
A reinforced police device
As of this Thursday, the City Council has also launched a police device of up to 750 agents to redirect traffic in the streets surrounding Puerta del Sol. If necessary, the police will be able to establish a one-way pedestrian route in the streets of Preciados and del Carmen, where this Thursday it has already been very difficult to walk. In such circumstances, Preciados will be accessed only through Puerta del Sol, while Calle de Carmen through Callao.