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Thursday, June 20
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Celebrating Christmas in Canterbury

Christmas at Canterbury

CANTERBURY, England – The month of December is a magical time in Canterbury.

As the cool winter air sets in and students begin to feel the pressure of impending end-of-term exams and essays, the city begins to show signs of celebration, ushering in the holiday season.

Store shelves are stocked with Christmas essentials – mince pies, Christmas puddings and Christmas crackers for holiday parties and celebrations.

The city center is transformed from what is already a quaint English town into something more as Christmas lights adorn the High Street stores and the annual Christmas market sets up shop, selling warm sausages, mulled wine, and various Christmas gifts to passersby.

At various points along the main cobblestoned streets of the city’s center, groups of carolers sing for donations to support local charities and the Salvation Army band play traditional Christmas tunes for the general public to enjoy.

In the heart of the city lies Canterbury’s famous Cathedral, with a life-sized nativity scene set up near the entrance for the duration of the season. It is here that the largest annual gathering of staff and students from the University of Kent takes place every year, at the University Carol Service.

On Tuesday, more than 2000 people including students and staff from the University of Kent as well as members of the community gathered in the Canterbury Cathedral to celebrate the Christmas season. Ushered in by the music of the Salvation Army Band, each guest received a small candle and a program containing the evening’s carols and readings.

The service began in silence and by candlelight as the dark halls of the cathedral were gradually illuminated by the thousands of tiny lights. Shortly after, the great cathedral was filled with the angelic voices of the University Chamber Choir singing the first song of the evening. As the service progressed, a variety of different groups from the community and campus added their contributions to the celebration.

The highlight of the service came mid-way as six different groups from the University came together to sing “Silent Night” in six different languages. Beginning with a verse in English, the carol was also sung in Swahili, French, Spanish, Greek, and Japanese, showcasing the diversity of students in Canterbury and celebrating the ability of peoples from all over the world to come together and sing of “peace on earth.”

As I left the cathedral with my candle still lit and walked through the city back to the University, I couldn’t help but feel that there is something beautiful about the way Christmas is celebrated here.

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