Gentle Christmas atmosphere with lighting – sustainably
In Helsinki, one thing is for certain: Christmas lights that are switched on to bring light to the darkness at the Aleksanterinkatu Christmas street opening. The lights were first lit on Kluuvikatu by the owner of Fazer Café before the Second World War, and the first actual Christmas street was opened on Aleksanterinkatu in 1949. The street was then decorated with festoons of spruce twigs and illuminated by incandescent bulbs.
In recent years, the City of Helsinki and property owners in the city centre have developed the lighting. Sponda, which owns several commercial properties in the centre in addition to Citycenter and Forum, has been involved in planning and implementing the Christmas lighting for Mannerheimintie, for example, which is home to many of Sponda’s properties.
“We want to bring Christmas joy and atmospheric lights to everyone in the city. It is also a matter of safety. Developing the city is important for us. The customers are naturally drawn to areas where the comfort and safety of the environment is taken care of,” says Sponda’s Head of ESG Pirkko Airaksinen.
The lighting of shopping centres kicks off the Christmas season
The glistening lights of shopping centres create an atmosphere and transport the visitors’ minds to the upcoming festivities in Sponda’s shopping centres across Finland. The theme in the Ratina shopping centre in Tampere is candy canes, and the Riemu playground in the Ratina plaza has an enchanted forest theme. The lighting elements include giant illuminated golden trees, an enchanting fox, and a beautifully glimmering curtain of lights.
In Sponda’s shopping centres, Forum and Citycenter, in the city centre of Helsinki, the Christmas spirit is created in many ways. The giant Christmas trees located on Keskuskatu have a significant impact on creating a Christmas atmosphere in Citycenter.
“At Stockmann’s initiative, there is now a tradition of placing a row of gigantic Christmas trees along Keskuskatu between the department store and Citycenter. Throughout the years, other neighbouring properties have joined in on the Christmas tree decorations, and now there are trees on both sides of Keskuskatu,” says the shopping centre’s Marketing Manager Annaliina Vekkeli.
The electricity used in our shopping centres is generated with emission-free wind power
All the Christmas lights in Citycenter and Forum, as well as the light curtains on Keskuskatu, are made with LED technology. We also pay attention to the sustainability of Sponda’s five environmentally certified shopping centres with regard to recycling.
“We take sustainability into account in everything we do. The electricity we use in our shopping centres is made with emission-free wind power. The Elo and Citycenter roofs are also equipped with solar panels. Back in the day, changing to LED lights, was a natural choice, as the energy savings were significant in comparison to traditional light bulbs. We engage in environmental coordinator operations with Lassila & Tikanoja in all our shopping centres. The coordinator guides the tenants on how to sort waste. We also invest in recycling mechanisms, and, for example, recycle film plastic separately and further use it to make pellets. New plastic items are born as a result of the process,” says Airaksinen.
According to Vekkeli, the Citycenter Christmas lights are a combination of the traditional and the new. Indoors, round blue glowing snow crystals are hung at a height of tens of metres marking the start of the Christmas season. The impressive lighting for the “sausage” above Kaivokatu and Keskuskatu is a much welcome source of light in the Helsinki city centre.
“We renewed the lights for the sausage two years ago, and at the same time we changed the tone of light to warm yellow to better match the city’s new champagne glass lights and light ropes of Keskuskatu,” says Vekkeli.
Forest animals, activities, and charity
In recent years, Citycenter has invested in its atmosphere, for example, in the historic Saarisen piha by hanging large Christmas stars in the ceiling and by decorating the railings with curtains of light. The pillars of the renovated K1 floor and Asematunneli station tunnel have been covered with curtains of light which increase the feeling of comfort and safety in the area and connect the area to the shopping centre.
“In 2022, the festive atmosphere of Citycenter will be completed with snowy Christmas trees and forest animals that bring joy to the passers-by indoors. In connection with the mini forest on the K1 floor, there is also Santa’s mailbox, created in cooperation with Helsinki City Marketing, where you can drop gift wishes to send to Santa. During the Christmas week, choirs delight customers in Saarisen piha, performing Christmas carols every night before Christmas Eve,” says Kirsi Kemppainen, Sponda’s Head of Shopping Centres and Marketing.
The sparkling Christmas lights of Forum, a stone’s throw away, attract people and attention year after year. Almost all of the interior railings and pillars are decorated with flashing Christmas lights, and at the centre of attention is the metres-long Christmas ball collection that hangs in the centre of aperture.
“The gorgeous light curtains hanging from the Mercator court ceiling attract attention. Children’s favourites are the moving polar bears that have been relocated this year. Forum is also annually decorated with an icicle light strip that rotates outside, the Kukontori light canopy, and other established light elements,” says Kemppainen.
Forum’s Christmas activities include a Joulupukki pulassa (Santa in trouble) escape room created in cooperation with Escape Room Helsinki. Forum’s gift-wrapping service gift wraps your Christmas shopping for free at weekends and during the Christmas week, and you can visit the ice lounge to photograph your own Christmas card.
Christmas is a time of charity and goodwill. Forum participates once again in the warm-hearted Joulupuu campaign organised by the Joulupuu charity organisation and the Junior Chamber International, thanks to which children and young people at risk of social exclusion also have the opportunity to receive a Christmas present. Ratina hosts both the Salvation Army’s traditional Joulupata fund-raising and the Hope association’s Christmas present fund-raising for low-income families.
More light for January
After Christmas, Helsinki will get lighter as the traditional LUX Helsinki light festival starts. This time, the iconic Forum, celebrating its 70th anniversary, and Citycenter, built in the 1960s, are participating in the festival. You can admire the lighting installation BLING THE ROOF, designed on the roof of Citycenter by the lighting artist Otso Vartiainen, from many different directions, which also pairs up with the PIXELS lighting installation in Forum’s glass corner. All LUX Helsinki pieces of art are presented at https://luxhelsinki.fi/en/
Photos: Mikko Uosukainen (Forum, Citycenter) and Mikko Vares (Ratina).