Christmas officially arrived at Durham Cathedral yesterday as its tree was lit up.
In keeping with the cathedral’s festive traditions, the tree was lit alongside the blessing of the crib during an afternoon service.
As ever, the tree was lit up by a child, with five year old Charlie Brown from Newcastle doing the honours. His work brings a nice family link, as mum Jacqui is the cathedral’s head of finance.
The cathedral choir sang round the tree, a locally grown Norwegian Spruce more than 25 feet tall.
As in previous years, it had been donated to the cathedral by Langley Moor based firm Ward Brothers.
The service finished up at the West End of the cathedral where the crib had been set up depicting the nativity. The clergy and cathedral choir processed to the crib, followed by the congregation.
Moments before the tree lights had been switched on, The Dean of Durham the Very Reverend Michael Sadgrove said in his address: “The lighting of the Christmas tree links this symbolism of light to the evergreen whose leaf never dies.
“Although Christmas trees were not introduced into England until Victorian times, evergreens have decorated hearths and homes in winter since ancient times.
“This was taken to symbolise all that does not die in the darkness and cold, but lasts for ever. For people of faith, this is how God’s love is: eternal and undying.
“It is a small child who brings the fragile light of a taper to the Christmas tree.
“When the first candle on the tree is lit, there is a sunburst of brightness and splendour. “It’s a wonderful moment of glory breaking into the darkness.
“And the fact that a child brings this about reminds us of Jesus who was born at this season to bring eternal light and love into the world.
“This is why we go from the Christmas tree to bless the crib and thank God for the coming of Jesus.”
The figures for the crib were carved by Michael Doyle, a retired miner from Houghton-le-Spring during 1975 and 1976.
The wood, seasoned oak from the Raby Estate, was a gift of Lord Barnard.
Michael discovered his gift for carving in his fifties and created the crib figures in his seventies.
The figures make reference to the mining industry, with the donkey a pit pony with all its harness and trappings, the crib a ‘choppie box’ in which the ponies were given their feed underground and the innkeeper dressed as a miner with a whippet at his side.
Yesterday’s congregation had been encouraged to bring wrapped Christmas presents appropriately marked with age and gender.
The presents are collected by the Salvation Army to be given to families in need.