The festive fanfare was warmed by children singing carols, steel band entertainment – and even stilt walkers.
Santa and one of his elves also made an appearance, perfectly timing their entrance as the countdown began outside the town hall.
Pupils from St Bede’s RC Primary School performed carols, and Jarrow School steel band performed tunes including Silent Night and Merry Christmas Everyone.
The lights will adorn the town’s centre throughout the build-up to Christmas and over the holiday period.
The Mayor and Mayoress of South Tyneside, Coun Olive Punchion and Mary French, also joined in the fun.
Coun Punchion said: “The Mayoress and I were honoured to perform the Christmas lights switch-on in Jarrow this year.
“It was so great to see the community come together for the occasion.
“It was also lovely to hear the carols and music from our very talented local schoolchildren who did a grand job spreading Christmas cheer among the crowds.”
She added: “Jarrow Town Hall and the town’s light displays always look fantastic throughout the festive season.
“The switch on has really brought the town to life, creating a wonderfully magical atmosphere for residents and visitors this Christmas.”
Parents Amy Frank, 27, and Jon Hiscock, 30, from South Shields, celebrated son Aiden’s second birthday by taking him to enjoy the entertainment.
Jon said: “It’s the first year that we’ve been to see the switch-on and it’s been really enjoyable.
“There’s a lot of good entertainment – it’s important that the effort is taken to celebrate Christmas like this.”
Danielle Slowey, 34, came to watch her daughter Maddie, 10, a pupil at St Bede’s, perform.
She said: “My family has not long moved to Jarrow from Washington, so this is the first time I’ve seen the lights switched on.
“It’s pretty cold but there’s a really good turn-out. As long as you wrap up warm then you can really enjoy what’s going on.”
Jarrow is the second South Tyneside town centre to be lit up so far, this year.
Reggae-inspired hip hop act Reggie ‘N’ Bollie, who appeared in the 2015 run of TV’s X Factor, tripped the switch in South Shields on Thursday.
And residents in Hebburn will enjoy the glow of seasonal lights when the town is lit up on Monday with the festivities taking place from 4pm to 5pm at Fountains Park.