A view backstage at Beverley Minster

Making our own fun

Christmas is the time of year when you’re most likely to catch the virgers’ highly exotic version of Riverdance.
Granted it takes place in unglamorous surroundings, but the effect can be strangely beautiful.
Basically it involves one or both of the virgers climbing onto the mound of cardboard and packaging that fills our green industrial waste bins and jumping up and down on top of them to force the contents into a smaller space. To make the job more interesting we often sing a little song until we are satisfied we can’t crush it any more. I’m probably the more effective at this operation as I weigh 16 stone but my much lighter colleague and boss, John, seems to enjoy it so I let him get on.
It’s most common in October because that is when the Minster shop is taking delivery of its Christmas lines, so the packing cases are coming in thick and fast. 
“Oh, Christmas!” I hear you groan. “It comes earlier every year.”
Now I’d agree with you if you were talking about the High Street. With the current downturn in consumer spending the shops are trying every trick they can to prise money out of our hands, so last year I heard the immortal tune of Wizzard’s “I Wish it Could be Christmas Every Day,” on October 2nd. And while I’m a huge fan of Roy Wood I just know I’m going to be sick and tired of that particular song by early December.
However, in the Minster, Christmas itself is still on December 25th – no change there. What is happening is that we are gearing up to the big day, which means that December is just about our busiest month. We will have large school services, there is a long list of concerts and performers to be accommodated – each with their unique staging and seating requirements – and then of course there is the large selection of annual church services with which we anticipate and then celebrate the birth of Christ (which, after all, is precisely what the festival of Christ-mas is truly for, the rest is just flim-flam).  My own favourite is the Midnight service on Christmas Eve – I don’t know why but I’ve always enjoyed it immensely.
But part of the preparation does involve getting special items into the stock room of the Minster shop, ready for when we start offering suitable Christmas gifts to people of all ages. And the empty boxes keep coming
So if you see a fat, bearded man, dressed in red, jumping up and down on a load of packages marked ‘Christmas’ and singing jolly songs don’t be confused. It won’t Santa, it’ll be me.

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