Manchester is no stranger to a giant Santa – we’ve been sticking them up high on the tops of buildings (and other things) since the eighties.
Over the years, though, it’s fair to say that Father Christmas has changed his look somewhat.
Santa’s look has transitioned mightily with the times, from a lithe 80-foot tall Santa scrambling up the Town Hall clock tower in the mid-eighties to the infamous, now-retired bug-eyed ‘Zippy’ – so named for his resemblance to the classic Rainbow children’s TV character.
Our latest giant Santa, meanwhile, boasts a twirling moustache and sits atop a huge, twinkling present.
First unveiled to the city in 2019 at Piccadilly Gardens following a lot of very public heartbreak around the retirement of Zippy, this year the 2.3 tonne festive mascot can be found outside the central library in St Peter’s Square.
Keep reading to discover how the giant Santas have changed through the years.
The original giant Santa
Manchester’s original giant Santa was a fixture in the city for over thirty years, pictured here in 1986 astride the Town Hall clock tower with a sack of presents for children slung across his back.
Caught in the act of clambering over the roof and down into the tower, this early giant Santa set a long-standing tradition in Manchester.
Standing at eighty feet high and fully exposed to the elements, he would often deflate – and was even punctured twice by gargoyles, requiring numerous surgeries to repair his various holes and tears.
Opposite Santa, on the other side of the town hall’s roof, sat his reindeer and sleigh – patiently waiting for him to drop off those presents and return, ready to take flight onto the next house.
The 90s Santa
In the early 90s, our original giant Santa was considered to be looking a bit sad. He and his reindeers had deflated many times and so the decision was made to replace both him and his trusty steeds with this jolly, rosy-cheeked chap.
A combination of cheerful and marginally terrifying (let’s be honest, he does have a little bit of a manic look to him – like he’s indulged in too much brandy on his midnight rounds) he held out until the mid-noughties, waving down at festive revellers from the roof until ultimately being retired in 2007.
For some reason we’re yet to unravel, not only does he appear to have two moustaches – one black, one white – he’s accompanied by a teddy bear (understandable) and an… aeroplane? Not very environmentally friendly that, Santa.
The one and only Zippy
Enter the man, the myth, the legend. Of course, we’re talking about the best giant Santa of them all: Zippy – nicknamed as such for his likeness to the classic Rainbow children’s TV character.
His weird massive blue eyes, his lack of nose, or mouth, and his cheery white beard made him the most distinct giant Manchester Santa to date. We think actual tears were shed when it was announced he was being retired – and we know there was rejoicing when he reappeared at Kellogg’s following his retirement.
The iconic 6-tonne festive mascot was specially made for Manchester by French company Blachere, who also create light installations for the Trafford Centre shopping mall and Harrods in London.
Illuminated by 100,000 different light bulbs and comprised of a total of 89 different pieces, the council ultimately decided he was too expensive to keep on – as it took three days, a lot of money, a crane and a whole host of people to get him up onto his Albert Square perch each year.
As Councillor Pat Karney, the spokesperson for the Christmas markets, said at the time: “Even giant steel Santas need to retire.”
Still, he managed to steal the thunder of his replacement by reappearing at Kellogg’s before the newcomer could even make his debut.
The giant ‘twirly moustache’ Manchester Santa
When we first heard about old twirly moustache, Pat Karney said he’d be ‘more like Zippy’s dad’ – and we can kind of see it.
He had some big boots to fill and we think he’s pretty much delivered – although honestly, after the Christmas we had last year, worrying about which giant Santa the council erects in town feels like a problem of days gone by.
The huge LED-lit figure sits at 12-foot high and is covered in low-energy lightbulbs, making him cheaper to run than Zippy. Cutting a smart figure in his red, belted suit, he can be found sitting astride a glittering present in St Peter’s Square throughout the season.
Next time you’re in town pay him a visit, he’s a piece of Mancunian history don’t you know.
Feature image: Manchester City Council / The Manc Group
How to get rid of your Christmas tree in Greater Manchester
The festive season is, sadly, beginning to wind down, and over the coming days we’ll all be stripping the decorations off our Christmas trees.
For those of us who went for a real tree this year, there’s always the concern of how to actually get rid of the thing once the celebrations are done.
You can take your tree to a local recycling centre, but if you don’t fancy a boot full of pine needles, local councils are also offering collections.
Just remember to use all traces of tinsel, baubles, fairy lights and whatever else you’ve used to decorate.
Here’s what you need to know for each Greater Manchester borough.
It’s dead easy to recycle your real Christmas tree if you live in Manchester.
Just leave it next to your green bin on any of the green bin collection days in January and they’ll take it away for you.
Real Salford Christmas trees need to go in the garden waste bin, which is the one with the pink lid.
As with all the boroughs, it needs to be chopped up so the lid shuts, with no branches thicker than your wrist.
You can stick your Christmas tree in the green bin in Wigan, chopping it down into pieces if you need to.
Wigan Council will accept any branches smaller than 15cm in diameter, so if your tree is bigger than that, you’ll need to dispose of it another way.
Bolton Council will come and collect, and recycle, your real tree – but for a fee.
For £16, they’ll collect your tree. Just call 01024 336632 before Friday January 7 to arrange.
Bury locals – you’re going to need to get your Christmas tree into your brown bin, unless you fancy a trip to a recycling centre.
It needs to fit inside with the lid fully closed before the council will collect it.
In Rochdale, you can put the base of your tree in your dark green bin, then chop up the rest and put it in the brown bin (as long as the lid can close).
The trunk needs to be thinner than your wrist, as a guideline – if it’s bigger than that, you’ll have to take it to a recycling point, which are listed here.
If you live in Oldham, you’re another one who can recycle your tree just in the same way you would your normal garden waste.
Just chop it up and stick it in your green recycling bin ready for collection as normal.
In Tameside, real trees can just be left out with your brown bins ready for recycling – with collections set to take place on January 10.
The council will also collect your additional recyclable waste (and we’ve all got tonnes of that after Christmas), as long as it’s left out with your black or blue bins in a clear or labelled bag.
Stockport is another council that’s happy to take away and recycle your real Christmas tree as they would all your garden waste.
Chop it up to compost in your green bin.
Trafford Council will no longer take your tree away if it’s left beside your bin, so you’re going to have to chop it up and stick it in your green bin.
The lid needs to close and all decorations and bases need to be removed (they can go in your grey bin if you don’t want to reuse them next year).
Featured image: Flickr
Lightopia is slashing ticket prices for the rest of its lantern festival in Manchester
Lightopia has announced a big discount on tickets for the rest of its season here in Manchester.
The massive light and lantern festival will be offering 25% off event tickets for everyone.
The deal is running until the end of the festival, which is due to wrap up on Monday January 3.
Lightopia returned to Heaton Park for its third year back in November.
The popular event once again saw the park filled with enchanting lanterns, installations and light shows in an interactive trail.
This year’s ‘Christmas Fantasy’ at Lightopia includes brand new installations, like the Magic Circus display and the Field of Love, with 50,000 hearts covering the ground.
Other zones include the Time Travel section, where there are holographic time portals; the Fantasy Forest, where mythical creatures hide in the woodland; and Dragon’s Land, filled with 40-metre dragons and fabled fairies.
There’s also street food stalls and a massive fairground to explore at Heaton Park.