Monument Circle Christmas Lighting Ceremony

Indy's Biggest Holiday Tradition

The Christmas Tree at Monument Circle.
Serge Melki / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.5

Downtown Indianapolis is beautiful during the holiday season. The air turns cold and the street lights are decorated. Even the horse and carriage rides are decorated. Sip on coffee as you stroll from store to store during holiday shopping. All the downtown Indy holiday traditions begin with the lighting of the circle.

The Circle of Lights, Indianapolis's traditional lighting of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, referred to by some as the world's tallest Christmas "tree," ​takes place the Friday after Thanksgiving every year on Monument Circle downtown. Live entertainment begins at 6 p.m. on the circle, and the lighting of the monument takes place at approximately 7:45 p.m. The televised show runs from 7 - 8 p.m.

During the Circle of Lights®, the Indiana Soldiers and Sailors Monument is covered with 4,784 colored lights, 52 garland strands and is surrounded with 26 larger-than-life toy soldiers and sailors, and 26 peppermint sticks. The colored lights are strung from the top to the base, creating a giant Christmas tree effect.

One lucky child is chosen each year from a coloring contest to help flip the switch with Santa and the Mayor. The show stage features a Santa’s Workshop theme complete with toy soldiers and sailors, peppermint sticks, ornaments, elves in the workshop and an abundance of toys. The stage centers around a countdown box.

The entertainment is provided by local performers who must audition in the summer for a spot on stage. The show also usually features local celebrity performers such as Sandy Patty. 

Also on Monument Circle throughout the holiday season is the Santa Mailbox. During the season, children can mail letters to Santa and receive a reply with a self-addressed-stamped envelope. The mailbox is decorated with images of Santa and Rudolph and is also a popular tradition. If your children want to send a letter to Santa, be sure to have it in by mid-December. The mailbox is removed then.

Make your way to Carson’s Department Store after the lighting to take a “Selfie with Santa!” Our Circle of Lights Santa will find his way back to Carson’s from 8 – 10 p.m. 

This is a free event. During the holiday season, millions of sightseers will visit the Indiana Soldiers and Sailors Monument. Travelocity named the Circle of Lights® one of the top five “must-see Christmas trees” in the nation. If you are visiting Indy this holiday season or if you are fortunate enough to live in or near Indianapolis, be sure to visit the tree sometime during the holiday season. The Circle of Lights stay lit through the first week of January.

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