Their presence hung in the balance for many months while funding problems threatened their return after a year out of public view.
But on Saturday, November 26 that saga was well and truly put to bed as Chichester’s Christmas lights brought some festive cheer back to the city.
The Observer’s successful campaign to get businesses to bankroll the lights played a big part in their return, as did the generous donation of £5,000 from an anonymous member of the public which completed the funding.
The four streets from The Cross were completely packed as the public gathered well in advance of the 5pm countdown.
Four Weddings and a Funeral actor Simon Callow had the honour of illuminating not just the lights which hang high above North Street, East Street, South Street, and West Street, but also the Christmas tree organised by the city’s Rotary clubs.
He said: “I’m really honoured to be doing this.
“I’m very proud to be pressing the button and delighted to see so many of you here.”
Shortly before he hit the button, the Bishop of Chichester, Nicholas Frayling, blessed the tree and congratulated the Rotary for their efforts.
Mayor of Chichester Tony French stood side by side with Callow as the lights went on.
He said: “I’m delighted to see a huge crowd here today, and I am delighted we now have the lights back in Chichester.
“We were a disgrace last year. I must praise the city council for again putting the majority of the money forward and the businesses who decided to support it.”
The city was buzzing throughout the day with shoppers who were also able to take advantage of the new market at the Council House, in North Street.
There was also entertainment and carol singers during the day and a Santa’s Grotto in East Street.
Chichester was treated to possibly its first ever flashmob.
Members of the New Community Rock Choir spread out among the crowds in North Street and randomly broke into song as they walked towards The Cross.
Director of the New Community Rock Choir Steve Flashman said there were many bemused looks when he appeared from The Council House with a guitar singing Swing Low Sweet Chariot.
“People started joining in and as we got to The Cross we had 150 people singing and others were joining in,” he said.
“At first they were looking rather bemused at what was going on. When we got to the end of the song, there was rapturous applause down North Street.”
Doug Price from the Rotary Club of Chichester organised the marching band, TS Sturdy, which led a small procession through North and East Street, and also included the mascot animals, Pudsey, White Rabbit, Nando Bird, Book Start Bear, Fonty the Horse and Chipper the Dog.
He thanked Oakwood School choir for keeping the waiting crowds entertained, and Beaver Tool Hire who provided two cherry pickers to help decorate the tree.