Decorated storefronts, free drink and movie vouchers, and a red mailbox with express service to the North Pole will all be included in New Haven’s largest and most expensive holiday campaign ever.

The campaign, funded by the city of New Haven and Yale University, is channeling over $100,000 toward holiday promotions and special events aimed at drawing families from the city and suburbs to New Haven restaurants, retail stores, and cultural events over the holiday season. Titled “The holidays in New Haven: It all happens here,” the campaign is marketing the idea that downtown New Haven offers a wide variety of entertainment opportunities within a small and accessible area.

Barbara Lamb, New Haven’s director of cultural affairs, said the three groups meet throughout the year to figure out how to attract more business to downtown New Haven, the holiday season being especially important.

“A lot of people have stopped coming downtown in favor of malls, so we are trying to communicate to them that it’s not just about shopping because there is so much else going on,” Lamb said. “And we have found that people who come in to New Haven for our holiday events keep coming back throughout the year.”

Chief organizers of the campaign include the New Haven Town Green Special Services District, Market New Haven and the New Haven Office of Cultural Affairs.

Along with the traditional holiday tree lighting ceremony that takes place on Dec. 3, New Haven is hosting its third annual holiday window decoration contest, which lasts from Nov. 26 to Dec. 23. About 50 stores plan to participate this year, all of whom have also agreed to extend their hours to 9 p.m. on Thursdays throughout the month of December.

The Town Green has added two new promotions to this year’s holiday celebration. “Letters to Santa” encourages children to drop off notes in an oversized decorated mailbox on the corner of College and Chapel. The “Holiday Cheers” initiative offers a free drink voucher to over 21 restaurants downtown to consumers who spend over $50 in New Haven stores and a free movie voucher at Criterion Cinemas to those who spend over $100.

Town Green Special Services District Executive Director Scott Healy said all these promotions are designed to spread a fun holiday atmosphere across New Haven as well as to encourage activity in the downtown area. He said downtown New Haven’s retailers have done consistently better each holiday season over the past five years, and he is hopeful that the pattern will continue.

“The fact that New Haven now has a critical mass of restaurants located by a critical mass of retail and culture is what has really makes a difference,” Healy said. “And this is even more acute during the holiday season.”

With the departure of many students from local universities over the winter holiday, New Haven retailers rely primarily on year-round residents to do their holiday shopping downtown. But Market New Haven board member Anne Worcester said the holiday campaign aims to encourage students to take advantage of the free events and discounts while they are still around in December.

“Our campaign and advertising are very much targeted toward students,” Worcester said. “Even if you go to school here, you may not know all the city has to offer, and now is a great time to find out.”

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