2.8 million expected at church services

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There will be standing room only at churches across the country this evening as Christmas Eve congregations swell to their largest in years.

Some churches have doubled the number of services and many have introduced entrance tickets to prepare for more than 2.8 million people expected through Church of England doors over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The usual weekend attendance figures are 1.2 million.

A Church of England spokesman, said: "Rumours of the demise of Christmas as a Christian celebration are baseless. The dormant desire to recapture a sense of the wonder of the Nativity draws people from across communities towards churches across the country."

The country's grand cathedrals have also seen a 37 per cent rise in attendance since 2000 over the festive season. The cathedrals of Canterbury, London, Norwich, St Albans and York between them are expecting 25,000 people to turn out for worship today and tomorrow. Two events are being held at York Minster to meet demand, with almost 3,000 people expected.

At Chelmsford Cathedral, in Essex, the traditional service is so busy it is being held twice for the first time yesterday and today.