X FACTOR finalists Same Difference jetted into Belfast last night to kick off the city’s Christmas celebrations.

Pop duo Sean and Sarah Smith were joined by Hollyoaks actor Gerard McCarthy and Olympic medallists cyclist Wendy Houvenaghel and boxer Paddy Barnes for the Christmas lights switch-on.

Thousands braved the weather to watch performances by Same Difference and soap star Gerard McCarthy, who hails from Belfast, and see Lord Mayor Tom Hartley flipped the switch to light up the streets.

The hugely popular Christmas Continental Market has also officially opened at Belfast City Hall today and will run until Saturday December 20.

Once again the grounds of Belfast City Hall will come alive with dozens of market stalls offering a stunning range of crafts, food and decorations from across Europe and beyond.

Children will have the chance to visit Santa in his grotto, with the proceeds going to the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign.

There’s also a new Christmas carousel, face painter and the opportunity to send a letter to Santa at his post box.

Photos by Fabrizio Belluschi©