A DOCTOR and a nurse from University Hospital of North Durham will switch on the lights to Durham Cathedral’s 25ft Norwegian Spruce.

Tara Watkiss and Dawn Kempson, and A&E doctor and Junior Sister respectively, were entrusted with the honour in recognition of their life-saving work on the frontline during the coronavirus pandemic.

The pair will light the tree on behalf of their NHS colleagues across the country on Sunday, December 13, at 3.30pm.

The Northern Echo:

The public will not be able to attend the special service in person, but will be able to live-stream it on the cathedral’s Facebook page.

The tree is supplied by Langley Moor firm, Ward Brothers, and for 2020 will be installed with the help of Tyne & Wear Access.

The service will also see the Crib blessed with holy water at the font by Clergy as well as festive carols from Durham Cathedral Choir.

The Northern Echo:

Durham Cathedral’s unique crib scene was hand carved by retired miner Michael Doyle between 1975 and 1976 and has been positioned in the church over Advent ever since.

In a nod to the region's rich mining history, the traditional nativity figures are replaced by mining figures, including a pit pony instead of a donkey and the innkeeper dressed as a miner.

Canon Michael Hampel, Vice-Dean and Precentor at Durham Cathedral said: “The lighting of the tree and blessing of the Crib is a pivotal moment in our Christmas celebration as we bring together the sacred and the secular – the Crib pointing to Christ as the Light of the World and the tree signalling joy and good cheer. This year it felt right to honour the true heroes of 2020 who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to protect us all. We hope you can join with us virtually to pay tribute to the remarkable NHS workers up and down the country at this special service.”

Those who would usually leave gifts under the tree over the festive period are instead encouraged to donate to the Salvation Army’s Christmas Toy Appeal online between December 7 and 12.

Find more information at justgiving.com/fundraising/Langley-Moor-The-Salvation-Army