Celeb packed crowd watches Sean Bean and Jon Culshaw turn on Hampstead Christmas lights

Reindeers, the waft of mulled wine and festive cheer filled the streets of Hampstead as thousands of people descended on the village for the Christmas festival on Sunday (November 25).

Hampstead High Street closed for the day as Santa rode into town and the village was transformed into a winter wonderland.

Actress Helena Bonham Carter, film director Tim Burton and Spice Girl Mel C joined hundreds of families to watch as actor Sean Bean and comedian Jon Culshaw switched on the lights to get Christmas under way.

Lord of the Rings Actor Mr Bean, who lives in Belsize Park, admitted he was suffering from a little stage fright in the run-up to his big moment at the event organised by the NW3 Hampstead Business Group.

The 53-year-old said: “It looked amazing out there, it was just fantastic. I didn’t expect it to be quite such a big event – I always get nervous – but I was really pleased to be asked to do it.

“When it’s your friends, neighbours and all those people you know, it’s not intimidating, it’s just very exciting and something I have never experienced before.

“I have lived here for 15 years and it’s great place to be and all the people are so friendly and very welcoming.”

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The Hollywood A-lister was joined by impressionist Mr Culshaw, from South End Green, on stage for the switch on.

The funnyman said: “It’s absolutely brilliant looking at the crowds who were out there, like a proper Dickensian Christmas but done in a modern way for 2012. It’s the happiest I have ever seen the high street.

“We’re all very proud to be here to get six glorious weeks of Christmas under way.”

More than 80 stalls lined the streets serving up everything from dazzling jewellery to festive burgers.

Alex Goode, fresh from international duty with the England rugby team on Saturday (November 24), helped man his mum’s stall, raising money for charity Brick By Brick which builds schools in developing countries.

The England fullback said: “The festival is wonderful and I love coming to Hampstead for this unique atmosphere. It’s one of the best places in London, especially on a day like today.”

Street performers mixed with the throngs and dazzled children with fire-breathing and face-painting while other young people marvelled at the birds of prey and reindeer in the petting zoo.

Alexandra Lavery, co-chairwoman of the Hampstead Christmas Festival, who also doubled up as a singer in the Rock Choir on the main stage, said: “It was great to see Hampstead like that, to see everyone having a fun time with their families. It was just like a big party and that’s why we do it all.”

Special guests Shrek and Princess Fiona from the West End musical rounded off the day entertaining the crowds with popular numbers from the hit show before messrs Bean and Culshaw helped to light up Hampstead.

Reveller Jon Elstar, 62, from Branch Hill, Hampstead, said: “It’s such a shame it takes an event like Christmas to bring everyone together and get this kind of spirit.

“It’s such a lovely atmosphere and that’s what it’s all about isn’t it?”