CHRISTMAS magic was in the air as a lantern procession, led by a trio of camels, lit up South Tyneside.
More than 1,000 South Tynesiders braved sub-zero temperatures to watch the parade, which represented the three wise men’s journey to deliver gifts to the baby Jesus.
Starting at South Shields Museum, in Ocean Road, scores of schoolchildren from across the borough then marched along King Street behind the crusade and headed to St Hilda’s Garden.
On arrival, the spectators were then invited to sing-along with carols during the first part of South Tyneside Council’s Christmas Wonderland programme.
Among the crowds was Joan Greenwood from Biddick Hall, South Shields, who came to watch the procession with her grandson Jack, three.
The 68-year-old said: “I have lived in Shields all of my life and I don’t think I can ever recall seeing a camel walk down King Street, it’s wonderful and so unique.
“I can’t believe how many people have turned out, Shields has done itself proud tonight.”
Coun Ernest Gibson, the Mayor of South Tyneside, said: “The procession was a superb spectacle that everybody should be very proud of and the event has put the whole borough into a great festive mood.
“I thought it was excellent how so many people embraced the occasion from school children making colourful lanterns through to the public who lined the streets of South Shields to enjoy the Christmas fun.
“The procession was a wonderful way for people to venture into the town centre to do a bit of Christmas shopping and to enjoy the whole experience.
“Not even the bad weather could dampen or deter from what was a fabulous event that has kicked off the borough’s countdown towards Christmas.”
After the carols, the garden at St Hilda’s became awash with colours as a tradition nativity scene and festive lights display was switched on.
A glowing Santa, reindeers and polar bears could all be seen twinkling among the trees.
Originally a festive market was set to be held during the event, but due to Thursday’s gale force winds damaging the marquee it had to be cancelled.
It will now be held today from 10am to 5pm and tomorrow, from 10am to 4pm at Haven Point in Pier Parade, South Shields.
A special showing of the Christmas films, the Polar Express and The Muppet’s Christmas Carol, which were scheduled to take place at Market Square between noon and 4pm tomorrow, have now also been relocated to Haven Point.