The run up to Christmas is a busy time for many of us, trapped in the welter of shopping, preparing for visiting relatives and the panic of ensuring you’ve bought a suitable gift for someone. That’s even before you’ve considered putting up the tree, the mammoth task of cooking Christmas dinner and the debates over what seasonal specials to watch on the telly…
It’s probably no surprise to readers that Christmas is one of the busiest times of year at Peterborough Cathedral. Away from the hustle and bustle of the shopping areas, the cathedral precincts may seem (on the surface) an oasis of calm and contemplation. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t very busy preparing for the whole range of Christmas events and services over the next few weeks.
Many local schools, businesses and organisations hold specific events, carol services and functions at the Cathedral during the festive season. We have a wide variety of public events, from our recent and very successful Christmas movie nights to the upcoming Christmas Concert on the 16th December. The Cathedral sees some of its biggest attendances for services during the year at this time with the annual Christingle service on December 17th for young children and families, including seasonal readings, carols and other music. Traditional Christingle oranges are distributed to children as part of the service. Christmas Eve services are particularly busy, with usually standing room only for the 8pm Carol Service accompanied by the Salvation Army Band. You can find details of these and all our other Christmas services on our website at: www.peterborough-cathedral.org.uk.
What people perhaps don’t know is that the Cathedral closes to visitors for only one day a year, which is on St Stephen’s Day, better known to most people as Boxing Day. On this day the Norman Arch gates traditionally remain closed to allow clergy, staff and residents a break and moment of reflection after this busy time.
It is easy in the hurly-burly of this time to forget the central message of Christmas. This is encapsulated in a new sculpture which is displayed in the left hand portico of the Cathedral’s west front. This is a striking new nativity scene, an 8ft tall sculpture covered in copper and mounted on an oak base, depicting Mary, Joseph and the newly born Jesus. This scene has been provided by a donation by the Queensgate Shopping Centre and is designed to remind people of the Christmas story.
What is poignant is that the sculpture has been produced in association with HM Prison Peterborough, providing a fantastic project for both residents and staff there to be involved with. As people visit the Cathedral in the next few weeks it is hoped that this sculpture may prompt them to see the Nativity afresh. The sculpture depicts a family expressing the joy of a special birth, looks out from the Cathedral into the wider world and has been made by people seeking redemption. What could be a better expression of Christmas than that?