St Columb’s Cathedral’s second Christmas Tree Festival was officially opened on Friday evening (17th November 2023) by the Bishop of Derry and Raphoe, Rt Rev Andrew Forster, at an enchanting Opening Ceremony. The evening began with members of Londonderry Musical Society (LMS) — dressed in Victorian costume — welcoming members of the congregation as they entered the porch.

Among those who arrived to enjoy the festival opening was the Deputy Mayor of Derry Coty and Stranane Council, Cllr Jason Barr, who brought his young daughter.

The three clergy who officiated at the launch were the Dean of Derry, Very Rev Raymond Stewart, Rev Canon John Merrick and Bishop Andrew. Members of the Cathedral Choir and The Parish of Templemore’s Girls’ Choir provided music for the occasion, along with organists Nicky Morton and Louis Fields, and under the direction of Dr Derek Collins.

The evening began with only dim lighting in the church. Soon after the ceremony started, though, Bishop Andrew enlisted the congregation’s help in a count-down, after which the cathedral’s lights – and those on the many trees – were switched on together.

The ceremony began with the Cathedral in darkness. Ladies from the LMS, some carrying lanterns, processed into the nave, taking their seats near the front of the church. They were followed by members of the Cathedral Choir and the clergy.

Among the hymns sung this evening were ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ and ‘In the bleak mid-winter’.

The Christmas Tree Festival will continue until Thursday 21st December. The opening hours are 10am-5pm Monday to Saturday (until 1st December); after that date, trees can be viewed from 10am-5pm Wednesday to Saturday (right up until 21st December).