When does Christmas begin?

On the surface this would seem an innocent enough question. But dig a little deeper and yule (sorry) find it’s debated with enough heat to warm a lifetime’s supply of mulled wine. For some, the decorations go up the minute they see their first Christmas advert on the telly, which these days is usually around mid-October. For others, the sign to deck the halls comes as soon as they hear Fairytale of New York on the radio, while for those with a little more forbearance Christmas only really begins on Christmas Eve with A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. This last one has been broadcast live to the world by the BBC from the Chapel of King’s College Cambridge since 1928.

The truth is we all have our own little markers that tell us that the season of goodwill has arrived. For me, the pre-Christmas excitement begins the first time I hear Slade’s Merry Christmas playing in the Co-op and it builds steadily as each little festive symbol is ticked off; the first hot-dog at the Christmas markets, the first mince pie, the first viewing of The Muppet Christmas Carol.    

But Christmas really only starts with an annual trip or two to see Manchester’s Hallé Orchestra. The boys and girls at the Hallé are undoubtedly among the hardest working elves in the whole city at Christmas and, as such, they’ve long since carved themselves a place in Manchester’s Christmas calendar. This year is certainly no exception with some 14 different performances to choose from, ranging from elegantly performed traditional carols to festive shape throwing at A night of Abba’s greatest hits. 

Christmas extravaganzaAs always the Hallé kicks off its Christmas season on the first of December with its traditional performance of Handel’s Messiah. Personally I’m very much looking forward to its celebration of those Scandinavian greats Sibelius and Grieg later in the month – what could be more perfect on a winter’s evening than a trip to the magical waters of Tuonela or the Hall of the Mountain King?

Elsewhere, along with the Carol Concerts and the Christmas sing-along extravaganza, there’s also a Christmas family fun concert and An Evening with 007 and of course screenings of The Snowman (book early) with a live, full orchestral accompaniment to tempt you. There’s even A Viennese Celebration on offer to help welcome in the New Year.

The Hallé is a cultural gem and has been a part of Manchester for more than a century and a half. Each year it puts a big festive smile on the faces of people from across the North West of England, including mine. So, whether you want to don your Santa hat and sing your heart out or slap on your disco pants and boogie with the best of them, have a click and see how the Hallé can help make your Christmas that bit more special. I promise you won’t regret it.

By Alfred Searls


What: Hallé Christmas 2018

Box office: 0161 907 9000

Book online: www.halle.co.uk