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An illuminated fishing net in the sky, a flower light floating in a pond and hundreds of lights spread throughout the tree branches, creating an amazing ‘firefly’ effect. It sounds like a scene from a fairytale, but actually this is Amsterdam. From the 7th December 2012 to 20th January 2013, Amsterdam’s bridges, canals and some of its buildings will be festooned with light for the first ever Amsterdam Light Festival.

The Christmas Canal Parade was organised for the first time in 2009, where seventeen beautifully decorated boats made their way from the IJ harbour through the canals of Amsterdam to Central Station, which was a great success. The idea was created by HenkJan Buchel, director of Rederij De Nederlanden and Vincent Horbach, director of TCO Management. In 2010, Felix Guttmann, from the Canal Company, built up this initiative with them even further.

He asked Rogier Van der Heide, a famous lighting designer, to illuminate the Magere Brug for a few weeks and along with Wim Droge, producer of the second parade, they realised that the interplay with light and water could turn Amsterdam into a wonderful fairytale. So for the first time in 2012, Amsterdam’s old 17th century inner city will provide a backdrop to the spectacular sensory feast of the Amsterdam Light Festival.

There are four main activities which will form the core of the festival:

The Boulevard of Light takes place from 7th December to 20th January, 17.00 to 22.00pm. All the buildings of the cultural institutions between the Munt and the Amstel Hotel and the bridges, with special emphasis on the Magere Brug, will be transformed into an amazing carnival of light.

The Illuminade is a walking route between City Hall and the pedestrian bridge on the Oosterdok, which shows off some dynamic light installations, that will make you stop in your tracks in amazement and maybe even take part in some of the interactive features of the light sculptures. This takes place between 14th and 30th December, 17.00 to 22.00pm.

The Christmas Canal Parade on the 15th December promises to be a magical evening. About 40 boats adorned with fairy lights, live music and even a travelling carillon, will sail along the canals between the Korte Prinsengracht and the Oosterdok. The parade begins at 18.30pm and lasts about 45 minutes.

Socialight, from 7th December to 20th January, brings out the Amsterdam character of the festival. There are different projects that involve Amsterdammers of all ages and boroughs. One in particular is where 500 elementary school students create their own lampshades, which will be displayed on a grid of led lights in the trees in Waterlooplein and exhibited throughout the festival.

Many of the museums and art institutions have special events that are related to the Light Festival. There will also be various concerts and programmes held in the Concertgebouw and the Heineken Experience. But the Grachtenfestival Winterspecial will be the highlight of these events, where talented artists come together for their ideal musical winter’s evening and play in a cosy atmosphere, lit up only by candlelight. This goes on from 13th to 17th December.

1.26 Amsterdam, a light sculpture by Janet Echelman, gives a new shape to the urban airspace, with a fluid and moving ‘fishing net’ that responds to environmental forces such as wind, water and sunlight. It’s a reference to the earthquake in Chile in 2010 which caused the day to be shortened by 1.26 milliseconds. The Flower Of The Universe, by Titia Ex, is a flower of light which seems to float above the surface of a pond in the Hortus Botanicus. The flower has movement sensors which sets off a wave of multicoloured light when people walk around it. Lampyris Noctiluca is a light installation made out of 510 led lights distributed through tree branches, hanging over water. Created by Tamar Frank, the installation has a light programme with quiet and restless movements, creating a beautiful ‘firefly effect’.

So for the next 6 weeks, Amsterdam will be ablaze with night time colour. Make the most of this magical atmosphere and share it with friends. It will truly be a feast for the senses.