Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Here We Come A'Caroling

Every year, on Christmas Eve, for the last 30 odd years, Canterbury High Street transforms as hundreds of people descend to raise their voices in song and celebration, all for charity.
We have only managed to make it once before, 3 years ago, as the following years have always seen one, or both of us laid up in bed with heavy colds.  The kind of cold that waits until you have finished work, stop moving for 2 minutes and your body just collapses.  One year I was so ill I couldn't go to Grantham to see Steve's parents, couldn't get out of bed to do the Christmas food shop and couldn't drink a drop on Christmas day.  Steve was just as bad the following year.
This year, amazingly, (touch wood) we are both ok, and joined Ellie, John and John's brother, Andrew, on the high street for a night of pure Christmas spirit.
The Community Carol service is in aid of the Lord Mayor's Christmas Gift Fund, a Charity that was first established 62 years ago as an appeal to give parcels to the elderly and needy and Christmas time.  In its first year of operation, the appeal raised between £200 and £300.
This year it aims to raise £15,000 in the two months in the build up to Christmas, with each individual parcel distributed valued at £25, given to the elderly, lonely, families, individuals in need and young children.   Recommendations for recipients are made by local organisations, including health centres, doctors surgeries, nurses, Social Services, clergy and schools to the Committee, which is made up of 12 volunteers.
All parcels are delivered personally by volunteers as well (including senior school pupils) who spend time with the recipients, and, for many, this human contact is more important than the contents of the parcel and can mean the difference between a happy and a miserable Christmas.

The Community Carol Service is just one of the fund raising events for the Lord Mayor's Christmas Gift Fund.  Led by conductor Chris Gay from the top of an open top bus outside Primark, the high street bursts into song, accompanied by the Salvation Army Band and the St Stephen's Choir.
Also on top of the bus are the Lord Mayor, normally the Archbishop of Canterbury (he was laid up with suspected pneumonia this year, so the Bishop of Dover joined us and gave the blessing), the Chief Constable of the Police and a few other dignitaries.
There are a few things that are truly memorable about the Carol Service.  The first is the Salvation Army Band.  Squirreled away at the front of the bus, unless you are quite close you can't see them, but you can hear them.  We Three King is always accompanied by 'bopping', led by the dignitaries on top of the bus.  It's quite a sight as the mass of human bodies bobs up and down in time to the chorus!
There is also the Canterbury Carol - a re-written edit to the tune of Jingle Bells, which includes the truly awful line 'and a sleigh's not safe on a motorway'.
The St Stephen's Children's Choir leads us in a rendition of Once In Royal David's City, with the solo always sung by a very brave child soprano from their lofty position on the Primark balcony overlooking the high street.
Songs like Good King Wenceslas also require a bit more audience cooperation, with the men singing the lines said by the King, and the women and children playing the part of the Page, often in competition with each other, with the winner being declared by the conductor.
After the Carols are over, we said our goodbyes and Merry Christmasses, gave hugs all around and headed home to hole up for Christmas with big mugs of amaretto filled hot chocolate and The Nativity on the TV.
I hope you all had an amazing Christmas time, and Happy New Year!
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