Hitchin welcomes festive season with 19th annual Christmas tree festival

Hitchin tree festival organisers Jill Chidgey and Clare Fleck with their tree.

Hitchin tree festival organisers Jill Chidgey and Clare Fleck with their tree. - Credit: Archant

Hitchin celebrated the festive season at the weekend with its 19th annual Christmas tree festival – claimed to be the longest-running such event in Britain.

11th Hitchin Girl Guides Amelia Wells, 11, Emily Jones, 10, Lucy Anderson, 15 and Charlotte Bevan, 1

11th Hitchin Girl Guides Amelia Wells, 11, Emily Jones, 10, Lucy Anderson, 15 and Charlotte Bevan, 13 with their Christmas tree - Credit: Archant

Revellers were queueing out the door to see the coniferous creations at Holy Saviour Church in Radcliffe Road.

There were 50 trees with a wide variety of themes, and those attending were asked to vote for their favourite.

“I think a lot of people feel that their Christmas festivities really start with the Christmas tree festival,” said Pauline Caswell, one of the large organising team.

“It’s a real volunteer thing – not just from the church but from the whole area. It’s a real community thing.”

The trees included offerings from Our Lady’s Catholic Primary School, Mary Exton JMI School, Highbury Infant School, The William Ransom Primary School, St Andrew’s C of E Primary School, Codicote C of E Primary School, York Road Nursery School, Ickleford Pre-School, Highbury Lodge Day Nursery, Purwell Primary School, Samuel Lucas JMI School and Strathmore Infant and Nursery School.

There were also contributions from church members, charities, local businesses, guides, brownies and rainbows.

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Among the themes were ‘Christmas Around the World’, ‘the Magnificent Magi’, ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’, ‘Xmas Trees and Elephants’, ‘Lego Lapland’, ‘150 Years of Football in Hitchin’ and ‘Influential Jamaicans’.

A rota of musicians throughout the two days included organ music, jazz, singing and a troupe of cellists.

“I think we’re the longest-running tree festival in the country,” said Sheila Daw, one of those who set the annual fixture up back in 1997.

“A lot of Christmas tree festivals have followed on from us. They always call up and ask us how to do it.”

Pauline and her husband Brian, who helmed the tree festival from 2005 to 2013, missed it so much when they moved to Penarth in Wales that they set up a similar event there that is still going strong years after their return to Hitchin.

Next year will be the 20th festival, and the organisers are planning something special – but there’s no indication yet of what form that might take.

“The first year we did it we were on TV, so maybe we’ll be on again,” said Sheila.

“This year we’ve been concentrating on the church’s 150th anniversary, so we haven’t given much thought to it yet, but we’ll have a meeting about it in the new year.”

Results of the Christmas tree voting will follow.

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