Reflections on the Christmas Tree Festival – 15 December 2013


Walking around St Luke’s this afternoon, there really was a wonderful atmosphere. Singers from Voices Anon, accompanied by Duncan Baines and congregation member Joan Harnby, gently recited carols, while visitors strolled around the building.

What was most delightful was the range of people under the church’s ancient timber roof. Young people. Old people. Sunday-morning regulars. People who’d never stepped foot in St Luke’s before. All had come to admire the Christmas trees on display.

A bauble hangs from a Christmas tree. In it, the interior of St Luke's is visible.

The interior of St Luke’s seen in the reflection of a bauble hanging on a Christmas tree.

Just like over the summer Music Festival, I seem to have spent unbelievable amounts of time here recently. From unloading the trees on Wednesday afternoon, to helping decorate on Thursday; photographing the great saxophone group at Friday’s lunchtime concert, and, yesterday, taking pictures of Theresa May inspecting her own sponsored tree.

So it’s wonderful to sit here now, as the event begins to wrap up, and just ‘be’.

Earlier, I wept silently on visiting the ‘Prayer Tree’, upon which individuals have hung cards bearing the names of those in their prayers. In this supposedly joyous time of year, it’s too easy to forget the people who are suffering. Most saddening was the message that simply read: “Baby Lyra, who is with you in heaven.” No words can better express such grief.

On the dedicated ‘Memory Tree’, I’ve added to a branch the name of my own dear grandfather, who died almost exactly three years ago.

Other trees are similarly thought-provoking. Amid the flashing lights and baubles, one tree stands bare. “I am homeless”, reads a card that rests on its empty branches. It’s been sponsored by the local charity Open Kitchen.

My friend Matthew Price had come up with a teal-coloured theme for the Taplow Youth Choir-sponsored tree – a nod to the unique hue of our uniforms. Complementing Matthew’s teal tinsel, Father had found some teal lights which he hung around the fir. Although undeniably the most colour-coordinated tree of the lot, it’s somewhat overshadowed by the tree with a Strictly Come Dancing theme – complete with glitter, shoes, and mirror-balls.

A service this evening will close the Festival, with music and prayers bringing an end to the event.

Don’t forget to check back tomorrow, for a comprehensive video and an In Pictures special.

Andrew Burdett

Andrew Burdett is a twenty-something from Maidenhead in Berkshire, working for ITV News.