I’m willing to bet that in the bumper Christmas edition of the TV series on Queen Victoria we will have Prince Albert starting the tradition of the Christmas Tree. We may even enjoy his brilliant idea for the Great Exhibition of 1851, but his death so soon after will be postponed until the New Year. In Beverley Minster where much of the series was filmed, there is a yearly festival of Christmas trees. It has just finished. There were nearly 100 of them decked out by as many organisations. Each pays £30 for the tree to decorate, and for a further £10, it can be taken away to grace a home, school, church, shop, university entrance hall or hospital ward.

There were ones from virtually every primary school in the area. The Quakers decorated theirs with what looked like so many paper doilies with the message ‘Welcome to everyone even if different from ourselves’on the name card, e while the Confucius Institute of Hull University (established early in 2016 to foster the relationship between Britain and China as wll as the study of language and culture) had ‘I hear and I forget, I see and I remember, I do and I understand.’ Xun Zi, Confucian philosopher, on theirs. There was not only one for Dogs for the blind, but another for Dogs for the deaf. The Pathology section of Hull and East Riding Hospitals had theirs, but by far the most moving was the one for Abbie’s Fund, hung with little bundles in blue or pink with messages for a baby, loved and lost.

The trees all sparkled with the same white lights along the aisles, the sparkle sometimes hidden by the effusion of decoration. Outside, with snow that was forecast but didn’t arrive, the Minster was lit by a strange white light before sunset, while inside a warm golden illumination shone over the hum of visitors.

Then, after three days, last Monday all the trees were taken away leaving only the two tall firs that stand every Christmas on either side of the entry into the choir, below the Star of Bethlehem, hanging from the round hole in the crossing, plugged by a huge wooden cover when not in use for hauling beams needed for repair up into the roof area.

       Confucius Institute

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