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Glastonbury ceremony held for cutting of Holy Thorn tree

The Holy Thorn at St John the Baptist Church, Glastonbury Image copyright St John the Baptist Church
Image caption The tradition is for the eldest child at St John's infant school in Glastonbury to cut the thorn

A ceremony has been held to mark the official cutting of the Holy Thorn tree in Glastonbury before sending a sprig to the Queen for her Christmas table.

The custom was started by the Bishop of Bath and Wells in the reign of James I.

According to legend Joseph of Arimathea visited Glastonbury with the Holy Grail and thrust his staff into Wearyall Hill, which grew into the Holy Thorn.

It is thought monks from Glastonbury Abbey took care of the original and took cuttings to preserve the tree.

Image caption In December 2010 the Holy Thorn on Wearyall Hill was cut down with a chain saw prompting a police investigation and outpouring of grief from pagans

As well as a tree on Wearyall Hill, Glastonbury's medieval abbey also has a thorn, as does St John's Churchyard.

The original Holy Thorn was cut down and burned as a relic of superstition during the English Civil War.

Image caption There are Holy Thorn trees at Glastonbury Abbey, St John's Church, and on Wearyall Hill

But the tradition of sending a sprig to the monarch was revived in 1922 when Queen Mary agreed to accept a piece.

The thorn made news around the world on 8 December 2010 when vandals used a chain saw to cut the tree on Wearyall Hill down prompting a police investigation.

Two years later the replacement tree was again cut down by vandals.

A crowd of 400 children and adults from St John's infant school, St Benedict's and St Dunstan's gathered for the ceremony at St John the Baptist Church, the Reverend David MacGeoch said.

The eldest child from St John's infant school cut the thorn before the children sang a self-written song about the tree.

The Holy Thorn is unusual as it flowers twice a year - in May and December - unlike a normal hawthorn which flowers once in May.

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