Have a very Minster Christmas – a guide to services, events and festive fun at York Minster

Let there be light: the atmospheric Sankta Lucia family service at York Minster. Photograph: Duncan Lomax, Ravage Productions
9 Dec 2015 @ 11.09 am
| Entertainment

Singers in ethereal white gowns will bring light to even the darkest corners of York Minster today (December 11) with traditional Swedish songs and candles burning brightly to celebrate the festival of St Lucy.

Now in its third year, the atmospheric Sankta Lucia family service features a candlelit procession and carols in memory of a young Sicilian girl who was martyred for her Christian faith in the early fourth century.

Sankta Lucia: Festival of Light

Dec 11, 7.30pm (doors open at 7pm)

Free (collection during service)

Minster website

The service, which is run in partnership with York Anglo-Scandinavian Society, starts with a procession led by a young girl wearing a crown of candles, thought to symbolise a halo, and the red sash martyrdom.

Candlelit procession

“We held the first Sankta Lucia service in 2013 and it has since gone from strength to strength, attracting around 1,000 people last year,” said Canon Peter Moger, precentor at York Minster.

“The service has many similarities to our own Advent Procession, with the cathedral starting in near darkness and being gradually lit by candlelight as the service progresses.”

Eva Robards, of the York Anglo Scandinavian Society, added: “The Swedish tradition of Sankta Lucia is celebrated in churches, schools, workplaces and homes throughout Scandinavia every year, so it’s fantastic that it’s been introduced to York and made part of people’s annual Christmas festivities.”

The procession will be led this year by the Swedish choir Chorus Pictor from the community of Täby, just north of Stockholm. Three boys from another Stockholm choir (who participated in the procession in 2013) will also take part, as will members of York Anglo-Scandinavian Society.

Music at the Minster

York Minster Choir join voices with renowned soloists to sing Handel's Messiah
York Minster Choir join voices with renowned soloists to sing Handel’s Messiah

One of the UK’s leading choirs will be joined by internationally renowned soloists for a special performance of Handel’s Messiah at the Minster on December 12.

Handel’s Messiah

Dec 12, 7pm


Minster box office

York Minster Choir will join voices with soprano Mhairi Lawson, mezzo-soprano Katie Bray, tenor Nicholas Mulroy and bass Grant Doyle to sing perhaps the best-known and most popular oratorio 273 years after it was first performed in Dublin.

“Messiah is often performed during the Advent and Christmas season as it tells the story of the coming of Christ, so it’s particularly poignant at this time of year,” said Robert Sharpe, director of music at York Minster.

“We’re thrilled to be joined by some world-class soloists for this year’s performance, which will take place in the beautiful setting of the nave.”

Chapter House Choir Carols

Dec 18, 7.30pm

from £15

Minster box office

The Minster’s nave will be filled with festive sounds to mark the 50th anniversary of the Chapter House Choir. The concert features favourite carols old and new, including the first performance of a new carol written by Andrew Carter, the choir’s founder conductor.

Seasonal services

A host of services attract crowds to the Minster throughout the festive season. Photograph: Duncan Lomax, Ravage Productions
A host of services attract crowds to the Minster throughout the festive season. Photograph: Duncan Lomax, Ravage Productions
Nine Lessons & Carols

Dec 22 @ 7pm; Dec 24 @ 4pm


Minster website

Two services of Nine Lessons & Carols will take place on in the run-up to Christmas, offering a traditional celebration of the birth of Jesus with special readings, carols sung by York Minster Choir and hymns for everyone to join in with (you can even do the descant if you’re feeling daring).

First Eucharist of Christmas

Dec 24, 11.30pm


Minster website

Music from St William’s Singers and York Young Soloists will fill the air on Christmas Eve for the cathedral’s traditional midnight mass.

Eucharist of Christmas

Dec 25, 10am


Minster website

York Minster’s special service celebrating Christ’s birth will be led on Christmas morning by the Dean of York, the Very Reverend Vivienne Faull, with the Reverend Canon Peter Moger preaching. Other services on the big day include Choral Matins at 11.45am, Crib Service at noon and Choral Evensong at 4pm.

A time to give

The sound of Christmas from the heart of York
The sound of Christmas from the heart of York

If you’re struggling for present ideas this Christmas, York Minster has a few nifty gifts for you to choose from.

Special festive gift vouchers, which can be used to purchase tickets for the famous Mystery Plays when they go on sale in January, are now available from the Minster shop for a limited period (you’ve got until 2pm on Christmas Eve).

The vouchers are £25 and £40 and can be redeemed as full or part-payment when tickets for the performances go on sale at 9.30am on January 13.

While you’re in the Minster shop, why not pop a few more gifts in your basket?

  • A York Yuletide CD, £10: a new recording by York Minster Choir, directed by Robert Sharpe
  • Bishop Mouse, £12.95 taken from an original carving by acclaimed sculptor Nick Hunter, this handmade reproduction is about 10cm high
  • York Minster Jigsaw Puzzle, £15.95 with 1,000 pieces, this 66cm x 50cm should keep the family busy on a quiet Boxing Day
  • York Minster Oak Fountain Pen, £37.95 handcrafted from 13th century oak timber recovered from the south transept after the fire on July 9 1984, this is a real piece of Minster history.