LONDON, ONT. -- A six decades old tradition to mark the unofficial start of the holiday season in London looked a lot different, and was certainly a lot quieter this year.

The switch was turned on Thursday evening by Mayor Ed Holder during the CTV News London six o’clock broadcast.

But unlike the festive, community gathering in normal times, this year there was no event due to COVID-19.

“We decided that even though we won’t hold an event in the park this year - we still need to turn the lights on,” said Scott Preece, the city’s manager of recreation operations. “A tradition that’s been going on for almost 60 years now and we though it was important that we give Londoners something to look forward to during the course of the holiday season.”

There are now more than 80,000 lights adorning the Victoria Park trees.

It takes four to five weeks to install them said contractor Dave Evans, whose crew includes himself and one other person.

“It’s amazing the number of people that come by and say ‘thank you,’" he commented. “I hear it every day when we’re doing it. People when they say how much they enjoy them. So that’s the nice part of the job.”

There are seven specially dedicated trees around the park, remembering people we’ve lost, and marking special causes. Each of these is lit in just one or two colours, and has a sign marking the dedication. Groups recognized include the Make-A-Wish Foundation and HIV/Aids Connection, among others.

Meantime, the grand celebration may be gone, but Preece says the spirit is no less meaningful.

“Even though we can’t have an event, we still want people to be respectful to physical distancing while they’re down here. But come down and enjoy the lights and hopefully we can spread some good cheer over the Christmas holidays.”