Portsmouth: visitors flock to Christmas tree festivals

Thousands of visitors will flock to churches in Portsmouth and the wider Hampshire area to see beautifully-decorated Christmas trees as part of festive celebrations.

Several churches in south-east Hampshire and the Isle of Wight are holding Christmas tree festivals, many of which involve community organisations offering to decorate individual trees. And that’s before more than 50,000 worshippers fill churches for carol services and Christmas services later in the month.

The largest is the 15th annual Brighstone Christmas Tree Festival on the Isle of Wight. More than £55,000 has been raised for charities in the past 14 years and this year’s four-day festival promises to be just as spectacular, with more than 100 decorated trees.

The grand opening at 7pm on December 7 includes the lighting of the Isle of Wight hospice tree at St Mary’s, Brighstone. Hundreds of visitors will then visit St Mary’s, the Methodist Church, Wilberforce Hall, and Mottistone Church from December 8-11 to see the trees for themselves.

Among other highlights are carols and the lighting of the Tree of Christian Unity by the High Sheriff at 3.30pm on December 8 in the Methodist Church – with Chale Choir and Brighstone schoolchildren. There’s a chance to enjoy a horse-drawn carriage ride around Brighstone, and to see a lace-making exhibition and sample refreshments. Watch out also for the carols and crib blessing at Mottistone Church at 4.30pm on December 10.

And the festival ends at 7pm on December 11 with a Stars of Wonder concert at Brighstone Church. The trees will remain in Brighstone Church and the Methodist Church until Boxing Day.

Festival co-ordinator Chris Goodman said: “There’s a lot going on, so do come along and join in the fun, and be assured of a warm, Christmassy welcome.” For the full programme, see www.brighstonecofechurches.co.uk or contact Chris on 01983-741166.

St Cuthbert’s Church in Portsmouth will host a concert and Christmas tree festival in its newly-refurbished worship area during the same week. A concert by the Hampshire Guitar Orchestra at 7.30pm on December 9 will take place in the midst of dozens of brightly lit and decorated trees. Tickets are £7, and available on 07763 210659.

The festival itself takes place on December 10, from 11am-6.30pm, and on December 11, from 12noon-3.30pm. On the Saturday afternoon, visitors will be entertained by ukelele players the Pompey Pluckers, and soup, cakes, mince pies, tea, coffee and mulled wine will be served throughout the festival.

The worship area is the final part of the St Cuthbert’s complex to be refurbished after 10 years in which a GPs’ surgery, community rooms and children’s centre have been created inside the old church building. Work on the worship area started in August. Entrance is £1.50, with under-16s admitted for free.

Meanwhile, St Mary’s Church, Alverstoke, in Gosport will host its third Christmas tree festival from December 9-11. That’s after a launch night with carols in the village centre from 6.15pm on December 8, and a procession to church, where 70 decorated Christmas trees will be on display. Each has been sponsored and decorated by a firm or organisation and the display of twinkling fairy lights in a dark church has been described as “breathtaking”.

The Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt Rev Christopher Foster, and the Mayor of Gosport will judge and present prizes to the most original tree and the one with the ‘wow!’ factor. There’s mulled wine and mince pies available too.

The church will be open daily from 11am-7pm on the following three days. Music will be played or sung by a variety of performers, and on the Saturday night at 7.30pm, Gosport Solent Brass will stage their Christmas concert. Admission is £3 for adults, £2 for children, and free for those under six.

Churchwarden Richard Thorne said: “The aim is to bring our community together and to invite visitors into our beautiful church so they can enjoy with us those things that we hold dear at this important time of the Christian year.”

The Christmas tree festival at St John’s, Rowlands Castle, from December 8-11, will raise money for the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance.

The charity was chosen because the church’s former rector, the Rev Dennis Lloyd, owes his life to them. He was airlifted from the Isle of Wight to Southampton in stormy weather after suffering a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm two years ago. The charity, which was started in 2007, depends on fundraising, as it receives no government funds, but it costs £110,000 a month to run the service.

The Christmas tree festival will involved the church being filled with beautifully decorated trees, starting from the opening service at 7.30pm on December 8. The Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rev Rt Christopher Foster, will be on hand to officially open the festival.

The church will then be open from 10am-5pm on December 9 and 10, and from 12noon-5pm on December 11. Other highlights include Havant Light Opera in concert at 7.30pm on the Friday, a craft market until 3pm on the Saturday, a festival quiz with supper that evening and Hampshire Area Band in concert at 7.30pm on the Sunday.

St John’s Church in Locks Heath is also holding a Christmas tree festival from December 2-4. The church is open from 10am-6pm on the Friday and Saturday and 12noon-6pm on the Sunday, when visitors can see brightly-lit Christmas trees and vote for the one they like best. There’s a concert on the Saturday at 6pm, craft stalls and refreshments available.

St Peter’s Church in Havenstreet will also host a display of decorated trees from 10.30am-4pm on December 22 and then from December 27-29. The theme of this year’s display will be ‘The Saints’.

For more information on Christmas events and carol services, see www.portsmouth.anglican.org or www.achristmasnearyou.com

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