A Christmas Like No Other

‘A Christmas like no other’ – a line from a saccharine Christmas-y film stated by an excited child after receiving some good news. In these ‘unprecedented’ times of the Coronavirus pandemic many people will be experiencing the same sentiment, only for different reasons, such as shielding, isolation, the rule of six, or living amidst tier 3 restrictions. It will certainly be a strange Christmas, unlike any other I have ever experienced!

At the cathedral things have been extremely difficult since the pandemic began all those months ago. There have been many meetings to discuss how we adapt to advice and regulations when they have frequently changed as the infection rate went up and down.

And so we come to Christmas and our preparations. It has been extremely difficult to plan what is happening at the cathedral as there is a danger that services and events might be changed or cancelled, perhaps at short notice. Furthermore, there can’t be any congregational singing and numbers attending services and events have to be extremely limited to satisfy the social distancing and ‘bubble’ requirements. But Christmas will come, Christ is born and many people have worked incredibly hard to make Christmas at the cathedral ‘like no other’!

Firstly the vergers (and other helpers) have done a sterling job at erecting our huge Christmas tree in the nave. It really is a beauty this year and almost hugs the pillar next to it. The crib has also been built and thatched and has been placed in the centre of the nave, along with some of the figures so that children might visit it safely and learn something of the birth of Christ. Dan, one of our vergers (who is very clever!) has also made a Christmas diorama and that is on display as well as a 1000 piece diorama donated by Canon Malcolm Byrom which depicts the busy life of the town of Bethelehem on that first century day.

Normally we would be hosting many carol services for various organisations, but this year we are of course unable to resulting in great disappointment. Nevertheless the cathedral choirs are holding a ‘Festival’ from the 7th – 13th December and there will also be four Festivals of Nine Lessons and Carols in Christmas week. Midnight Mass and two Sung Eucharists on Christmas Day will also take place. Places must be booked in advance through the Eventbrite system which can be accessed via the cathedral’s website.

 We are delighted that, for those unable to attend services live streaming is now possible. We had hoped to be able to live stream services by Christmas, and, thanks to a generous donor and Andrew and his dedicated team of cameramen and technicians we are able to do so. We were delighted by the number of people who ‘tuned in’ to our Advent Service of Music and Readings (over 1000!) and are delighted that this is something that we are now able to offer frequently. Added to this, the cathedral choir have recorded a Nine Lessons and Carols for those unable to attend any of the services and that can also be accessed from the website when it becomes available.

 Hot off the press is a new venture! On the 16th December we will be holding outdoor service of readings and carols in High Cross, so if you are desperate to sing some carols, please come along and (socially distanced) join in! Grateful thanks to members of the Salvation Army Band who will be accompanying the singing.

 Finally, Christmas is always a time to think back to former years, to when we were a child, and to those happy times when loved ones who are no longer with us made it a very special time. Usually we hold the ‘Light up a Life’ service at the end of November and many people place stars on the Christmas Tree. As with other events we were unable to hold that service this year, but, stars will be available at the Christmas Tree and if you would like to offer a prayer, write a name or a message on a star, you can place it on the tree where it will beautify (even more) our Christmas services and celebrations. Although the stars are not for sale, you are welcome to leave a donation towards the work of the cathedral and the difficult financial situation we find ourselves in at the moment.

Many, many thanks to all who have worked so hard to be able to offer what we are able to do this year. The mould of previous years has (to some sadly, to others joyfully) been broken. We hope that you are able to join in our Christmas celebrations here at the cathedral, we wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. May it (albeit surprisingly) be a ‘Christmas like no other’! Merry Christmas!

 Canon Simon