Unidentified Christmas lights and stars in the sky

Christmas is traditionally a time for travelling and visiting family and friends – and probably for dropping in on the neighbours to wish them well.

The National Archives holds Ministry of Defence (MOD) files concerning reports of Unidentified Flying Objects [UFOs] from the general public. These reports are mainly in the series DEFE 24 and DEFE 31 (redacted files are available to download from Discovery for a fee). They give the date, time, location and – more importantly – a description of what the witness saw. The sightings are from across the country, with the details of the person reporting the sighting redacted.

Of course, a few dark, cloudless evenings, a festive drink or two, and a dose of seasonal good cheer, may explain this selection of Christmas lights and star sightings…

6 December 1993

The UFO reports relate to a meteor: Catalogue ref: DEFE 24/1955/1

The UFO reports relate to a fireball, catalogue ref: DEFE 24/1955/1

There were approximately 20 sightings of Unidentified Flying Objects – now referred to as unexplained aerial phenomena – across the South East; from Minster, Kent to Basildon and Luton. The sighting over Ashford (Kent) reports ‘like a shooting star, but not a shooting star’.

When the report came from Five Oak Green, near Tonbridge, Kent, the object was pencil-shaped, with three areas of lights. As the object moved over West Dulwich, it was a saucer-shaped white light, and very bright. In Luton the object was star-shaped, and in Basildon, four objects were seen.

The file in DEFE 24/1959/1 confirms these sightings as a ‘fireball’.

19 December 2002

Very bright object over Chaldon, Surrey. Catalogue Ref: DEFE 24_2035_1

Sighting of a very bright object on 19 December 2002, catalogue ref: DEFE 24/2035/1

During the evening, two reports – one from London and one from Surrey – concerned a very bright / large object with a burning tail / orange yellow triangle. Falling like a shooting star, the object was later confirmed as the re-entry of space or satellite debris.

From Brighton, the report was of a cylindrical object, with flowing light from the front, and flames from the rear. [DEFE 24/2035/1].


15 lights from the Downs: Catalogue ref DEFE 24_2627_1

15 lights seen coming from the Downs: Catalogue ref DEFE 24_2627_1

Over the years, Christmas Eve has brought out an array of reports of strange lights and objects. On Christmas Eve 2002, while stopping at a service station on the A418, a member of the public saw an orange object with lighter coloured tail (DEFE 24/2035/1).

Someone switched the Christmas lights on in 2008 – well, 15 lights, red and flickering were reported from Wycombe; from Rottingdean, Sussex, 15 bright lights were reported coming from the Downs (DEFE 24/2627/1).

In 2009, a letter reported an orange-red ball over Suffolk. In 1990, a star-sized bright, white object was seen over Cannock. Over Shepperton, two large round shapes – bright with red, white and blue lights – were reported (both DEFE 24/1940/1).

On Christmas Day, perhaps some people are contemplating the stars, and end up seeing various sights. In 2008 over Perth, Scotland, someone simply reported seeing a UFO (DEFE 24/2627/1), while over Coventry an orange light with a tail flame effect was reported. Glastonbury, famous for its annual music festival, saw two reports of very bright red lights (DEFE 31/172/1).

In 1983 there was a report of three single orange lights in the shape of a triangle over Groombridge (DEFE 31/173/1). In 1985, a pyramid shape with two bright headlights was reported over Newport (DEFE 24/1924/1). The report from 1995 over Otley, Yorkshire was of a round object, like a satellite dish, bright like a star, with white lights around the edge. In Loose, Kent, the object was larger than the moon, spherical elongated, and very bright (both DEFE 24/1974/1). 

MOD standard reply concerning a Christmas Day sighting over Strathclyde, catalogue ref: DEFE 24/1969/1

MOD standard reply concerning a Christmas Day sighting over Strathclyde, catalogue ref: DEFE 24/1969/1

Boxing Day

On Boxing Day, apparently people are still looking towards the stars. A report in 1996 from Blackheath mentioned three separate lights, formed at high speed, before separating. In 1990, a motorist reported bright orange and red lights at 01:45 on the M23, Junction 9 for Gatwick (DEFE 24/1930/1). The report of a cigar shape, with blue and green light at the rear, came from Hull in 1990 (DEFE 24/1940/1).

In 1991, Inverness, the sighting of a circular object, green-blue with white light, very bright, and the size of an aircraft was spotted (DEFE 24/1956/1). In 2008, someone in Yorkshire saw two parallel UFOs.

4 January 1988 and a Christmas tree sighting over Worcester [DEFE 24/1927/1].

4 January 1988 and a Christmas tree sighting over Worcester [DEFE 24/1927/1].

Unusually, the Christmas tree didn’t come came down on 4 January 1988 in Worcester, but was instead seen in the sky overhead (DEFE 24/1927/1)

We cannot leave another Christmas without mentioning the unique festive illuminations from 26 to 28 December 1980 in Rendlesham Forest, and the report from Lieutenant Colonel Charles Halt, United States Air Force. I will leave you to read the only record of those events for yourself… but allow me to reassure you that the Ministry of Defence states there is no threat to UK air space, nor is there any evidence to substantiate the existence of extra-terrestrial life – not even at Christmas.

Report by Lieutenant Colonel Charles Halt concerning the lights seen around Rendlesham Forest in December 1980, catalogue ref: DEFE 24/1948/1

Report by Lieutenant Colonel Charles Halt concerning the lights seen around Rendlesham Forest in December 1980, catalogue ref: DEFE 24/1948/1


  1. Lindsay Green says:

    Some years ago, after being out for the evening, and around 10 – 11 o’clock, my daughter and l saw as we drove along a main road to go home, what appeared to be a very large red sun with a strange white cloud around it. When we got home we made the comment to my then husband what we had seen, laughing at us his comment was how, its a clear starry sky. In a daily news paper the next day, the comments were made ‘Concord being shadowed by unidentified object, which then went through the plane’? Was there a connection – l don’t know.

  2. Leon says:

    Myself and a friend saw two orange lights in the sky on either Christmas Day 2007 or 2008, sorry can’t quite be sure now as we’re in 2019. This was in Brockley SE London. One came from a north easterly direction travelling south and, literally travelled over us, slowed down whilst we were watching, then shot off at an amazing speed to which point we noticed another from the south heading north and it almost seemed as if the one that had passed over our heads chased the other one off in a south westerly direction. We could clearly see they weren’t lanterns and, what ever they were, had their own power because of the immense speed and acceleration they had, and they agility and their ability to change direction. Also noticed no engine noise.

    Whilst the one that travelled overhead slowed down we started to jog up the road in fear of it being a missile or some sort of modern weaponry but, it accelerated towards the other one like I previously explained. I was so pleased I had a friend with me to witness this, as you wonder if people will believe you and, because sometime later, maybe a year or two, I saw the same thing again from my living room window in Lewisham SE Llondon, only one this time that was static but which all of a sudden made what seemed as evasive manouevres and, shot of at a speed I’ve never seen anything move, only to be replaced by a black helicopter, which looked like it came to investigate.

    I have also seen other things I can’t explain as well, like a perfectly round grey maybe beach ball or bigger size, what I would say was maybe some sort of drone go past my bathroom window at I’d say roughly 100 feet from the ground. This moved slowly at first then again sped off only to be followed by a black helicopter again. I wonder if it was some sort of surveillance flying object but again, no engine noise and, how it was flying I have no idea, as it was perfectly round and I could not see anything that was making it fly.

    I have wondered if the orange UFOs are the same as this grey one, just at night its technology can emit a glow to mask them. I would say they are probably our technology, as whoever invents and makes such things probably has no obligation to tell us the public lol but, wow the stuff they must have that we don’t know about…

  3. Keith Mitchell says:

    The National Archives holds the records of central Government, including the Ministry of Defence. We do not keep records of sightings. More information on our role and what we do can be found on our website: http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/about/our-role/
    The Ministry of Defence no longer collect information on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena. Further information can be found in Dr David Clarke’s article available in the web archive: https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20090216143352/http://filestore.nationalarchives.gov.uk/pdfs/oct-2008-background-material.pdf?WT.download=bg-material

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