This is a sponsored article on behalf of St Paul's Cathedral.
After what has been — to put it mildly — a difficult couple of years, we could all use a bit of hope and joy. Those are the themes of St Paul's Cathedral's 2021 Christmas message, and they're reflected in a truly beautiful programme of festive events and services at the London landmark and working church.
From carol singing to candlelit processions, classical music to the Midnight Eucharist, here's what you've got to look forward to at St Paul's Cathedral this Christmas.
First of all, it has to be said that the cathedral is looking extra spectacular right now. Sure, Sir Christopher Wren's architectural masterpiece is always a sight to behold but, at Christmas time, it's on another level. The Advent Wreath's on display, twinkling Christmas trees — which, fun fact, are gifted each year by the Queen — reach up towards the exquisite domed ceiling, and, come 10 December, visitors will be able to admire the traditional nativity scene.
The gift shop is also looking extra sparkly, with a range of festive decorations and cards, in addition to a carefully curated selection of souvenirs that'd make excellent Christmas presents. Oh, and if you're Christmas shopping, you also need to know about St Paul's Cathedral's open-dated gift tickets, which you can buy online here.
Suffice to say, if you've been meaning to explore the interior of this London icon, now's the time to do so (tickets here). What's more, St Paul's Cathedral is bringing back its phenomenal Kids Go Free offer between 17 December and 2 January, so families can enjoy a brilliant value day out, complete with child-friendly trails and fun family activities. To redeem, book your tickets in advance and use the code KGF at checkout (full details and T&Cs here).
Throughout December, you'll also have the chance to experience the glory of the cathedral after dark, thanks to an enchanting array of evening events.
The magic begins on Tuesday 7 December with the MS Society Christmas Concert. Enjoy an exclusive performance by the Royal Ballet and live music by world-class soloists Dame Sarah Connolly DBE, Freddie de Tomasso and Michael Mofidian, alongside the Choir of St Paul's Cathedral. Author Alexander McCall Smith has written a selection of poems for the evening, and all proceeds support the MS Society's Stop MS appeal.
On Friday 10 December, it's time for the cathedral's famous Swedish Christmas service. The Sankta Lucia Carol Concert features a candlelit procession and music by both the Cathedral Choir and the Choir of the Swedish Church in London.
The choral delights continue the following day with a performance of Benjamin Britten's A Ceremony of Carols accompanied by Advent readings in an event that's totally free to attend. Then, on Tuesday 14 December, there's the Blood Cancer UK Christmas Carols, featuring some very special guests. Actor, writer and comedian Stephen Fry will be there, as will singer Natalie Rushdie and soprano Leslie Garrett, and it's all for a cracking cause.
The celebrations continue as Christmas Day inches closer. Swing by St Paul's at 3pm on Sunday 19 December for the traditional Lighting of the Christmas Trees and Blessing of the Crib. The service is free to attend and features Advent readings and music from the Cathedral Choir. Stick around for an hour or so afterwards and you'll catch Olivier Messiaen's La Nativité du Seigneur. Peter Stevens, Assistant Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral, performs this mystical meditation on the birth of Jesus.
On 23 December and Christmas Eve, there are free Christmas carol services, complete with a retelling of the Nativity story and "readings given by representatives of London life". Then, it's time to celebrate the dawning of Christmas Day itself at the cathedral's Midnight Eucharist.
So, if a heart-warming, soul-stirring and extraordinarily festive outing is what you're after, you know where to go. Browse the full programme for Christmas 2021 now and start planning your yuletide trip to St Paul's Cathedral. While you're on the website, why not invest in an annual pass and enjoy 365 days-worth of visits for the price of one?