An Elf impersonator dressed in the red and green of Lapland curled his lip and taught young ones dancing outside the Mansion House steps to swivel their hips, while a not-so-little drummer boy on stilts encouraged children at his large feet to put a full-sized drum kit on their Santa lists.
But if Lord Mayor Caroline Conroy was hoping the surreal distractions at the launch of Christmas time at the Mansion House would help the 30 or so people who had gathered for the lighting up ceremony to forget the absence of donkeys, goats and sheep from the city crib this year she would have been disappointed.
[ Live crib ban was partly due to animal welfare concerns, Lord Mayor of Dublin says ]
“Ah the live crib should be here, it’s the PC police gone mental,” said Veronica McGuinness from the Liberties. “They are the best looked after animals in the city.”
“It’s good that they are going to be in St Stephen’s Green now,” chimed in Carol Thomas from James’s Street. “But I heard yesterday that the animals will have to go back to Wexford every night and they are going to be traumatised by that,” she said without clarifying if the cause of the trauma was down to the journey or the destination.
Marie and Seán O’Connor from Donaghmede were also missing the animals. “It’s a tradition isn’t it,” Marie said. “But maybe it is because we are an older generation and we can remember when people used to have pigs in their back gardens.”
The Lord Mayor was sticking to her guns and when asked if she had any regrets, she said simply but firmly: “No, absolutely not. I still don’t think this is a suitable place for animals, for farm animals.”
Ms Conroy said she was delighted with how the Mansion House looked. “I wanted to do something different and I think it’s turned out fantastic. It’s magical and it actually adds a bit more excitement to Christmas and to bring people into the city and that’s what I wanted to do.”
She also said she had been keen to include more young people in the official festivities. “I thought the crib with the animals was just fairly suited to younger kids so this way it brings in all ages.”
[ ‘Standing up for tradition’: Live crib finds new home in Dublin city centre after Mansion House ban ]
Ms Conroy made it clear she didn’t mind that a live crib will be opening in St Stephen’s Green early next week.
“They can do what they feel they need to do and I am doing this,” she said.
The Mansion House and Garden is part of the Dublin Winter Lights festival and features illuminated arches leading to a canopy of lights, illuminated reindeer and a wishing tree, all lit by low wattage LEDs.
This year all the squirrels, nutcracker statues and decorative tree props were custom-made by artists in ReCreate, using only reused materials collected from businesses.
As well as the wishing tree, which will be decorated with the wishes and dreams of visitors to the Mansion House, there is a bike that will allow people to make the Christmas Tree sparkle through pedal energy.
And, of course, there is a crib, which was built by two women who are Dublin City Council apprentice carpenters.
Looking at the crib shortly after the lights went on a small child spoke excitedly to their mother.
“Where’s the baby Jesus?” the child asked.
“He’s not there yet, he won’t be in the crib until Christmas morning,” the mother responded.
“But why are all those people in a circle and what are they starting at if there’s no baby?” the child persisted.
“I have no idea,” the mother admitted before they wandered off in the direction of the wishing tree.