It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at Halifax Minster - one of busiest and most wonderful times of the year for the historic church.
As in past years, the Minster and its hard-working team of staff and supporters, is preparing to welcome as many as 14,000 people through its ancient, solid oak doors – and some of them four-legged!
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The festive throng will include members of the regular congregation, choristers, musicians, school pupils and their teachers, not forgetting hundreds of shepherds, angels and wise men, and for its well-loved annual Christingle services, a real live donkey.
These visitors will be taking part in a packed festive feast of celebrations aimed at involving a wide cross-section of the local community.
Vicar of Halifax Minster, Canon Hilary Barber said: “There is a lot of preparation in the run up to Christmas but all the hard work and effort definitely pays off when we see the appreciation on people’s faces as they walk through the doors.
“This year the Christmas Tree Festival in particular was magical – the Minster was transformed into a winter wonderland with a forest of Christmas trees adorning almost every bit of space.
“We were grateful for a host of local organisations and businesses across Halifax, who generously sponsored and decorated the them and put them in place for the enjoyment of all the Minster’s visitors. It was a huge success with hundreds and hundreds of visitors coming to see them during festival, which heralded the start of our seasonal celebrations.”
The Minster is also renowned for its beautiful music, - and no more so than at Christmas. This means a busy time for the director of music, planning the music for the many carol services, as well as the choirs and organists who spend hours rehearsing.
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This year’s traditional, annual carol service takes place on Sunday, December 22 at 6.30pm, and once again this will take place by candle light. It tells the story of Jesus’s birth through readings and carols with music performed by the Minster choirs, organ and brass. Everyone is welcome.
The Minster’s well-loved Cristingle services are becoming more and more popular each year – so much so that there are now three of them. They take place on Christmas Eve at 1.45pm, 3pm, 4pm.
They will feature Christmas Carols for everyone, the chance to light a Christingle, listen to Elland Silver Youth Band and of course, see the real donkey!
Canon Barber added: “All children are invited to dress up and join in the Nativity which is impromptu. Children can come as an angel, shepherd, or
a king! No rehearsal needed, just come along and and join in on the day.”
For those who want to attend the first Cristingle, you are invited to come and hear the choir sing carols around the Christmas tree in the Piece Hall at 12.30pm and join in the procession to the Minster starting at 1.15pm.
Midnight Mass takes place on Christmas Eve from 11.30pm. This is a traditional sung service of Holy Communion for Christmas and perfect for those who want to lie in bed on Christmas morning.
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On Christmas Day, there will be two services – the Said Holy Communion Book of Common Prayer - 9am, followed by family Eucharist with carols led by the Choristers of the Minster Choir at 10.30am.
Canon Barber, a dad of four, admits that by the time Christmas Day arrives, he will ready for a well-earned break. “When I get home, I’ll have a large sherry (or three), and a bacon sandwich, and fall asleep until it’s time for Christmas dinner. In the evening, I’ll open a few presents and see what the children have got.”
He added: “It’s amazing to imagine Christmas in the Minster for over 900 years, bearing testimony to how God became a human being in the person of Jesus, and how the story of Jesus’s birth has been told over and over again for hundreds of years and carols sung over and over again.
“In our special 10th anniversary year of becoming a Minster, this Christmas will be just as special as ever and everyone is invited.”
See the Minster website for all other Christmas Services and events at the Minster next year - www.halifaxminster.org.uk
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