Online Entry For Lights Trail & Virtual Festival Now Open!

The online entry system for both the Virtual Brightlingsea Christmas Tree Festival and the Brightlingsea Christmas Lights Trail are open!

We might not be able to host our ‘in person’ festival inside All Saints’ Church, but you can still get your creative juices flowing and bring cheer to all by entering our Virtual Christmas Tree Festival instead. Entry is free and open to all and entries must be submitted by 10 December. The Virtual Festival will go live on Saturday 12 December, when online judging by the public will also commence. Click here to enter the Virtual Festival.

And you can also now enter to be part of the Brightlingsea Christmas Lights Trail, bringing joy to the town from All Saints to the Hard. Whether it’s a full on light show, a simply lit outdoor tree or a beautifully decorated window, everyone who arranges outside decorations as their home is invited to participate. Entry is free and open to all in Brightlingsea and entries must be submitted by 10 December. The Trail will open on Saturday 12 December. Click here to take part in the Trail.

Brightlingsea Christmas Tree Lights 2020 – From All Saints to the Hard

2020 has left a real impact on community events in Brightlingsea – Covid-19 restrictions have forced the cancellation of the Music Festival, the Blessing of the Waters, the Carnival, the Town Regatta, the Bonfire & Firework Night and many more local celebrations.

December’s Christmas Tree Festival is another event that can’t go ahead as normal. However, you will be pleased to know that the festival committee and other organisations in the town are planning an alternative event to bring some light in the darkest month, by lighting up Brightlingsea from All Saints Church down to the Hard and inviting everyone to get involved, even if they are isolating or keeping at a safe social distance.

Elements under discussion include:

  • All Saints’ Church Yard display
  • Virtual Christmas Tree Display & Competition
  • Residents’ Christmas Lights Trail
  • High Street Lights
  • A Christmas Tree and lights around the Hard
  • A Christmas Ferry Ride to Santa’s Grotto  (update 2 November – sadly the new lockdown restrictions mean that it will no longer be possible to go ahead with the planned Christmas Ferry Ride)
  • Rotary Club Father Christmas Sleigh tour

Provisional Dates: 

Activities will start early December with some events focused on the weekends of 12/13 December and 19/20 December. 

How can you get involved?

All Saints Church Yard

The Christmas Tree Festival Committee is aiming to have a display in the churchyard along with the usual metal sculptures. Contact details: Elizabeth Foss-Smith or Jackie Edmunds

Brightlingsea Christmas Lights Trail

Are you planning on putting a tree in your garden this year, or maybe decorating your house with lights?  If so, you are invited to add your address to the online Town Trail Guide and enter your tree in our Virtual Christmas Tree Festival too (see below.) Further details on how to add your address and details to the Trail will follow shortly.

Virtual Christmas Tree Festival & Competition

The Christmas Tree Festival may be cancelled – but you can still show off your decorated trees and enter the usual competitions in our Virtual Christmas Tree Festival. Just take some pictures and we will be able to add them to our Festival pages (details of how to do this will follow shortly). You’ll be able to donate to local charities online, too.

            Competition categories include:

  • Favourite Indoor tree submitted by a group
  • Favourite Indoor tree submitted by an individual
  • Favourite Indoor tree submitted by a young person’s group
  • Favourite Indoor tree submitted by a young person

High Street Lights

The Town Council always put up the large lights on High Street Businesses and lights around Victoria Place Fountain Gardens. In addition, a large decorated Christmas tree is traditionally donated by a local business and placed in the war memorial gardens by the council workmen.
These displays will be up in early December and local businesses and organisations are invited to dress their windows with a Christmas Display which will be judged by the Brightlingsea Mayor and Cinque Port’s Deputy, on behalf of the Shop Brightlingsea. The categories will be:

  • Best Local Business Lights
  • Best Local Organisation Lights

Harbour Lights and Christmas Tree

The Colne Yacht Club is working with businesses and individuals in and around the Hard to produce a display of lights for everyone to enjoy. This will include a specially donated 15 ft high tree decorated with lights, as well as decorations on the Hard and boats and a Santa’s Grotto.  Anyone wishing to get involved by either making a display, lighting up their boat, or sponsoring a display in this area should contact

Rotary Santa Sleigh Tour

From 1 to 24 December the Rotary Club of Brightlingsea & District will once again be helping Santa on his visits to the streets of Brightlingsea and surrounding villages. Santa will have a brand-new sleigh this year and the reindeer have all been to summer boot camp, so do look out for him visiting your area and give him a wave! To find our more please contact Fiona Brown on

Also happening in Brightlingsea this Christmas:

Church Services in Brightlingsea 

Throughout the pandemic, local churches have adapted with the times and now offer a wide range of services that can be accessed either by booking a place in a church for a particular service, to ensure social distancing, or by allowing the public to joining via You Tube and Zoom. Exact details of services at all churches are still being defined and more information will be provided nearer the time.

Deputy’s Gift Fund Christmas Lunch

Brightlingsea has always been very proud of its 50-year tradition of providing lunch for those who would normally be alone on Christmas Day. Given the natural order of things, this is predominantly the elderly but some couples and younger people have benefitted too.  Sadly, this year it will not be possible to hold the event at Brightlingsea Sailing Club but the organisers are working hard to ensure that a delicious, freshly cooked Christmas Lunch will be delivered to those involved on Christmas Day. Please contact for more details.

Ringing In Christmas

On Christmas Eve at 6pm we are asking everyone to come outside and ring a bell for 2 mins to spread Christmas spirit and to help Santa fly that sleigh. After a tough year it would be an amazing memory for the kids and communities. End 2020 with a bit of magic, hope and togetherness!

Brightlingsea Food Bank

Christmas is going to be particularly hard for those on low incomes this year and the support of our local Brightlingsea Food Bank (an offshoot of the Colchester Food Bank) will make all the difference to many families and individuals. To find out more about how you can help visit or put a donation into the Food Bank basket at the Coop Sampsons Road.

Watch out for more details coming soon. This is a very unusual year, so let’s try and make it one to remember in a positive way and give everyone in Brightlingsea a winter treat – while keeping them safe and socially distanced, of course!

And the 2019 Winners Are

GROUP – Brightlingsea Beach School “Drift-ing home for Christmas”
Runner-up Child group  –  2nd Brightlingsea Rainbows “Elves on Shelves”
CHILD INDIVIDUAL – Florence Andrews “O Pasta tree, O Pasta tree”
ADULT GROUP – Brightlingsea U3A “Electronic Circuit tree”
ADULT INDIVIDUAL – Mr Windows “I saw three ships”
The winners of the Nativity Figure Hunt at the Christmas tree festival were:
Finley Grant ( aged 10)
Daisy Kemp ( aged 7)
They each win a prize of a book.

Festival Fast Approaching

BCTF15-1At last the Festival is almost upon us and we have a wonderful weekend of Festive Fun ahead. The Festival is open to the Public from 10am to 6pm on Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th December (last admission is 5.15pm). In addition a few tickets are still available from Spirals for the special Friday and Saturday night Concerts (click here for more details) and as usual the Festival will close with the traditional Christmas Carols Sing-Along on Sunday evening at 6pm which is open to all and free of charge.

img_20161209_120055.jpgParking is very limited in the immediate vicinity of the church so please take advantage of the shuttle bus service which runs from Victoria Place (outside the Brewer’s pub) or use the Park & Ride which allows you to park free of charge in the Co-Op’s Samson’s Road car park and pick up the shuttle bus to and from the Church. If you are travelling to the festival from outside the area check out the travel options here.

For those who have entered trees please don’t forget that you should deliver your trees to the Festival this Thursday 12th December from 2pm to 8pm or Friday 13th December from 9am to noon. All trees must be collected again on Sunday after the Carol Concert until 7.45pm or Monday morning between 9am and 11.30am. Any trees not collected by noon on Monday will be donated to charity or disposed of.

refreshmentsladiesWe look forward to welcoming you all to the Festival and hope you will enjoy the wonderful display of individually hand crafted trees, our delicious home made refreshments and our well stocked pantry and gift shops where you will find a host of beautiful gifts and goodies.

Online Entry For The 2019 Festival Is Open!

Sleigh Drive WebOnline entry for the 2019 Brightlingsea Christmas Tree Festival is now open and we invite everyone to take part!

Entry is open to individuals, groups, clubs, schools and businesses and there is no charge to enter a tree, so get those creative juices flowing and take part in one of the most wonderful Brightlingsea festive traditions.

Full details of how to enter are available on our Entries Page

And The 2018 Brightlingsea Christmas Tree Festival Winners Are…

Each visitor to the festival is given a voting form on arrival and selects their favourite tree and at the end of the festival our amazing volunteers then collate and count all the votes. After careful checks we are delighted to announce that the 2018 Brightlingsea Christmas Tree Festival winners are:
Florence Andrews “The Hama-tree”
Wong/Totenhofer family “Chemis-tree”
Payne Gunfield “A Spanner in the Works”
Oaklands Care Home “The NHS Angel”
RUNNERS  UP – Highly Commended
Adult Group – French Marine “Sleigh Drive”
Child Group – 4th B’Sea Scouts “Tree Prepared”

Who Benefits From The Festival?

Brightlingsea Christmas Tree Festival 2015 - Highly Commended ChBrightlingsea Christmas Tree Festival benefits our whole community. For our visitors it is a wonderful festive experience enjoying the spectacle of the massed Christmas trees, our glorious gift shop and scrumptious larder, delicious home made refreshments, live music throughout the day, an opportunity to meet with friends old and new, and the truly unique atmosphere of our beloved All Saints’ Church at this very special time of year.

For those that create trees its an opportunity to let their imaginations run riot. Watching the joy on the faces of the children who contribute to school and group entries as they see their creations come to life in this beautiful setting is something very special. While for the adults its a chance to let their inner child run riot!

bctforganisingcommittee16For those working behind the scenes, for the volunteers creating and service refreshments, for all the wonderful singers and musicians who entertain us, its a chance to give something back to our fantastic community.

But alongside the community element there is also a very real fundraising role for the festival.  Since it began in 2003 the festival has raised some £120,000 which has been used to support the maintenance and development of Brightlingsea’s historic churches, St James’ in the High Street and All Saints’ on the outskirts of town, which hosts the Christmas Tree Festival.

The Festival has been run under the auspices of the Friends of All Saints’ since the start and they are currently coordinating plans for a major restoration of All Saints’ historic tower and the construction of a purpose built toilet and catering facility at the church.  You can find out more about the work of the Friends in the article below:


Shuttle Bus

From 10am the shuttle bus will be running between All Saints’, the Park & Ride car park at Coop Fiveways on Samsons Rd and from outside St James’s Church in the High Street. First pick up will be from St James’ each morning At 10am. 

If you are coming into Brightlingsea look out for the Park & Ride signs which will direct you to the car park. The post code for your sat nav is CO7 0RN
The bus makes a circuit approximately every 30 minutes from 10am and will finish at around 5.45pm.

Parking is very limited at the Church so please do use the Park & Ride.