By Jo Finzi
Get into the Christmas spirit with a visit to London this month. The UK’s capital city is ablaze with Christmas decorations, including the famous Oxford Street/Regent Street display.
This year’s theme is from the new animated film Flushed Away (produced by Dreamworks and Aardman).
The lights were switched on in November by three of the actors whose voices are used in the film - Ian McKellen (Toad), Andy Sirkis (Spike) and Shane Richie (Sid).
Around the tree
Why not start your own celebrations of the season with the lighting of the Christmas tree in Trafalgar Square on 7th December at 5.45pm.
The ceremony will include carols sung by the Choir of St Martin-in-the-Fields and the renowned Norwegian boys choir Solvguttene (Boys of Silver).
Each year since 1947, a Christmas tree has been given to the people of London from the people of Norway in gratitude for Britain’s support for Norway during World War II.
This is the 60th year of the tradition, and the tree will be lit by HRH Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway in the presence of HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway, the Mayor of Oslo and the Mayor of Westminster.
On 10th December, there’s the crib dedication ceremony. It starts with a torch-lit procession that assembles on the steps of St Martin-in-the-Fields, to the north-east of the square, at 5.20pm. It then proceeds into Trafalgar Square led by the Salvation Army Band with the Choir and Clergy of St Martin-in-the-Fields and the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Richard Chartres.
The crib is provided by the Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, and is erected on the west side of the Square. This year’s crib has been designed by Tomoaki Suzuki, with figures inspired by people and cultures from around the world.
A torch-lit procession will assemble on the steps of St Martin-in-the-Fields, to the north-east of the square, at 5.20pm and then proceed into the square. It will be led by the Salvation Army Band with the Choir and Clergy of St Martin-in-the-Fields and the Bishop of London, the Right Rev’d Richard Chartres.
After the ceremony, the tree provides a central focus for a programme of carol-singing in the Square in December. Many different choirs take part every day from 11th to 23rd, singing to raise money for good causes.
The tree itself is usually a Norwegian spruce (Picea abies) over 20 metres high and 50-60 years old. It is selected from the forests surrounding Oslo with great care several months, even years, in advance. The Norwegian foresters who look after it describe it fondly as “the queen of the forest”.
The tree is felled in November during a ceremony in which the Lord Mayor of Westminster, the British ambassador to Norway and the Mayor of Oslo participate. It is brought to the UK by sea, then completes its journey by truck.
A specialist rigging team erects it using a hydraulic crane and it ‘s then decorated in traditional Norwegian fashion, with vertical strings of lights - energy-efficient light bulbs are used.
The tree remains in Trafalgar Square until 6th January, the Twelfth Night of Christmas, when it is taken down for recycling. The tree is chipped and composted, to make mulch.
There’s always something worthwhile on the London theatre scene, but one show not to be missed is Matthew Bourne’s hugely popular and award-winning Swan Lake.
Following a sell-out tour, the show returns to Sadler’s Wells for a six-week run from 13th December to 21st January.
Bourne and his New Adventures company have found fame both in the UK and on Broadway with this re-interpretation of one of ballet’s best-loved tales. With an all-male cast of swans, the story is transformed into a thrilling, daring and contemporary performance, with extravagant designs by Lez Brotherston.
Bourne “has a genius for storytelling, and achievement that can never be overestimated when the body is his only narrative instrument. This is an absorbing drama, a satire, a horror story a thriller and life-enhancing theatre,” says Anne Sacks from London’s Evening Standard.
See more by visiting http://www.swanlaketour.com
Here’s your chance to see some of the capital’s greatest sites while getting into the Christmas spirit with a spot of ice skating.
London’s seasonal ice rinks are now in a dozen venues across the city, from Hampstead to Hampton court. Go to http://golondon.about.com/od/thingstodoinlondon/ig/London-Ice-Rinks/index.htm for more information on each venue.