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The festival will feature two new attractions this year.
A large-scale mapped projection on to St Paul’s Cathedral will replace fireworks, which organisers said were no longer viable given the large numbers of people expected to attend.
This year’s theme, ‘‘A Moonlit Garden’’, will be a thread running through all aspects of the event.
Activities start in the Octagon from 3pm with music and performance from community groups, including a lantern-making workshop tent.
There will also be a night market featuring food trucks and craft stalls.
“This is an exciting development that builds on what we have done before,” Midwinter Carnival Trust chairman Paul Smith said.
The main feature of the evening, the procession, will start from First Church at 6pm.
Hundreds of lantern carriers and members of music, dance and cultural groups will parade through the central city to celebrate winter and the longest night of the year.
Gold coin donations at this year’s carnival will be split between the Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust and the carnival trust.
The event will be postponed until Sunday if the weather is poor.