Festive celebrations in York with launch of the Minster's first Christmas Tree Festival

A glimmer of seasonal cheer can be seen in the twinkling lights of Christmas trees for the start of York’s festive celebrations.

Yesterday saw the launch of the Minster’s first Christmas tree festival, with baubles hung and garlands of colourful trim, as crowds returned to the city’s St Nicholas Fair Christmas Market.

The festival features nearly 40 trees all decorated by local children, charities and businesses, aimed at raising funds for the cathedral and uplifting spirits for all. It means more this year, said Neil Sanderson, from organisers the York Minster Fund, to see such celebrations return to a city known for its festive cheer.

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He said: “It’s been a difficult couple of years, and we thought this would be a good way of bringing people together.

The Rev Michael Smith Canon Pastor at York Minster finishing off decorating the York Minster Christmas Tree at the York Minster Christmas Tree Festival , with the decorations made by the York Minster Glaziers and Stonemasons. .Image: Gary Longbottom

“Christmas is definitely coming. The city has such a festive feel.”

York Minster, one of the world’s most magnificent cathedrals, has been at the centre of Christianity in the North since the 7th century and draws many thousands of visitors every year.

Its South Piazza, set against the backdrop of the Minster’s medieval splendour, has changed so much over the centuries. This year there is a festive marquee which houses the Christmas tree festival, alongside a winter village with wooden chalets offering seasonal food, drink and gifts.

The decorative hearts on the Baldersby St James Primary School Christmas Tree from near Thirsk representing each of the pupils in the small school at the York Minster Christmas Tree Festival. Writer: Byline: Gary Longbottom

As the Minster is a listed monument, it is important that any such events fit in with its “historic context”, said Mr Sanderson, and careful thought had been applied. This celebration is aimed at bringing together communities while raising funds for the Minster’s conservation.

Some of the trees feature handcrafted ornaments from the Minster’s stonemasons and York Glazier’s Trust, and others are inspired by music or hand-drawn pictures from school children.

Mr Sanderson said: “This gives us an opportunity to use a different space.

“It just feels like a nice festive thing to do as well. York has, particularly when it’s lit, that warm and ‘Christmassy’ feel.”

Cathy Grant decorating the Christmas Tree at the York Minster Christmas Tree Festival for The Richard Shephard Music Foundation which provides music to Primary Schools in North Yorkshire, with all the decorations made by the pupils Writer: Byline: Gary Longbottom

Festive

The launch comes alongside the opening of St Nicholas Fair Christmas Market, while York Castle Museum has transformed its Victorian Street into a snow-covered ‘stage’ to tell a Kirkgate Christmas Tale. To

Mr Sanderson, the seasonal festivities feel more poignant after a time when people were encouraged to stay home.

“I find it difficult to place what happened when it’s almost as if we’ve lost a year. This is about bringing people together.

Decorations on the Hempland Primary School Christmas Tree from York, at the York Minster Christmas Tree Festival. Writer: Byline: Gary Longbottom

"Last year was very disjoined, families unable to see one another or go to events. The more we can do to that this year, the better we can make people feel.

“There are still challenges, but it feels we can begin to do things again, especially outdoors.”

York Minster’s Christmas Tree Festival runs until January 6, with a vote to name the ‘best dressed’ and with donations to the Minster Fund.

Visitors are also encouraged to add their own Christmas message to a prayer tree, honouring loved ones or sharing goodwill. On Saturday there are family craft sessions to create ornaments. The trees are provided by York Christmas Trees, which supplied the tree for 10 Downing Street in 2020.

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