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Thousands flock to our Christmas tree festivals
THOUSANDS of people have visited churches across our diocese for Christmas tree festivals.
Churches in Gosport, Copnor, Locks Heath, Cowes and Whippingham - among others - have showcased dozens of decorated Christmas trees, often created by local community organisations and businesses. Visitors have enjoyed live music and festive food and drink as they've taken a closer look at the trees on show.
At St Mary's Church, Alverstoke, there were special carols in the churchyard and the lighting of trees to open the festival on December 8, followed by three days when the church was open. (picture above, by Bev Livermore)
It was the 14th year that the church had hosted a Christmas Tree Festival, and this year there were 75 trees on display, sponsored by individuals, youth groups, schools, clubs, charities, local organisations and companies. It was the first full festival after two years of Covid-affected, scaled-back events.
More than 3,500 visitors also flocked to see decorated Christmas trees in St John's Church, Locks Heath, from December 1-4. Bishop Jonathan formally opened the festival on December 1 - the fourth such festival the church has hosted. The theme was 'Celebrations' and the festival aimed to celebrate the Christian faith, with trees decorated by church and community groups.
There were also choirs singing and community groups taking part throughout. More than £4,700 raised from donations will go to those in need who are helped by the Fareham and Gosport Basics Bank and Two Saints, a hostel for the homeless that operates in Portsmouth and Southampton.
Organiser Nims Fisher said: "I have been reflecting on what made the Christmas Tree Festival such a huge success. Was it the footfall of well over 3,500 people, or the hundreds of welcome packs, Christmas cards, and information about Christmas services that were given out over the four days of the event? Was it the money raised?
"We experienced many different emotions, the look of wonder on the faces of the excited children, grief and hugs shared by the memory tree, discussions by the Alpha Tree, and friendly chats over refreshments in the hall. We showcased St John’s community with our message of Love, Hope and Joy.
"So many people helped, whether by entering a tree, being a welcomer, serving refreshments, playing and singing, making soups, scones and cake, lending tablecloths, stands, erecting banners, checking electricity cables, selling raffle tickets, preparations in the office, clearing up afterwards – the list is endless. It was hard work but great fun."
In Portsmouth, St Cuthbert's Church, Copnor, also hosted a Christmas Tree Festival from December 2-4. As well as dozens of illuminated Christmas trees, there was music, refreshments, stalls and activities for children. Santa also welcomed children into his grotto.
The vicar, the Rev Allie Kerr, said: "We were delighted to welcome hundreds of guests of all ages to this years Christmas tree festival. Everyone had a wonderful time visiting Santa, joining in with Christmassy craft, enjoying the entertainment and delicious refreshments or just soaking up the festive atmosphere. We are so grateful to all our community partners who decorate the tress with such creativity and to the fabulous team of volunteers who work hard to make the event a success."
Meanwhile, worshippers from St Mary's Church, Cowes, are preparing for their Christmas Tree Festival, which takes place from December 16-17. Find our more details about what's planned here.
And those in nearby St Mildred's Church, Whippingham, are also preparing for a four-day Christmas tree festival, which happens from December 20-23. The church is open from 11am-3pm daily for you to see scores of decorated trees. Find out more details here.