First held in 2003, Brightlingsea Christmas Tree Festival has been a huge success growing from just fifty-seven trees in the first year to nearly a hundred trees today. Individuals, families, charities, churches, schools, shops, businesses, clubs and societies – all with links to Brightlingsea – bring trees to decorate in the church, some on a Christmas theme, some funny and some to reflect a business or organisation.
There is no fee for displaying a tree, but a small entrance charge for coming to look at the display (£3.50 for adults in 2018) – although children and those in education are free. During the course of the weekend at least 2,000 people come to admire the trees and choose their favourites.
As well as providing one of the town’s best loved festive events, Brightlingsea Christmas Tree Festival raises much needed funds to support the upkeep of the historic All Saints Church and St James’ Church. As of the 2018 festival some £130,000 has been raised by the event.
In all, over 300 people are involved in organising and running the Festival. More than 90 local residents bake enough cakes, pies, scones, pastries, and tarts to feed the crowds at the refreshment stall. There is a special Christmas Shop which sells festive decorations, presents and edible goodies at very reasonable prices. Hot chestnuts and mulled wine are also on sale.
Throughout the Festival choirs, soloists, organists, pianists and instrumentalists play and sing for visitors in the Lady Chapel adding to the delights. There are special activities and competitions for the children with personalised certificate for winners in two age-groups.
A Festival Shuttle Bus operates on both days (see Festival Bus/Park & Ride page).
There are no toilet facilities within the church, but a Portaloo is installed near the Lych Gate.
Come and see for yourself! You will find something to interest all ages – from the winter wonderland effect of a fairy-light strewn path to the church door, to the clever jokes and elaborate decorations that sparkle on the trees and the age-old glory of the nativity figures.