A NEW festive walking tour exploring the history, tales and traditions of Christmas in York is set to launch this week.

Blue Badge tourist guide Sarah Cowling will be running the tours around the city’s medieval streets from this Thursday until December 24.

The tour lasts for 90 minutes and will carefully follow government guidelines.

Sarah said the tour is a “great way to stay safe, outdoors and socially distanced whilst hearing tales of Christmases past and looking forward to a much brighter future.”

She added: “According to one 19th-century historian, almost exactly 1,500 years ago, in AD 521, King Arthur and his retinue celebrated Christmas in the city of York ‘not by holy conversion and devout exercises,’ as he wrote reprovingly, ‘but in the spirit of heathen revelry; with feasting and mirth; in wantonness and many excesses... This was the first ever Christmas festival held in Britain.’

“If this is true then York is THE original Christmas City. If not, then York has still witnessed two millennia of mid-winter festivities in the guises of Solstice, Saturnalia, Yule and of course Christmas! They have all left their mark on our celebrations today.”

The tour raises questions such as - is York really England’s most Christmassy city? Is it true that it held the first-ever Christmas celebrations almost exactly 1,500 years ago in 521AD?

“We’ll discover where Rudolph got his red nose from, which grinch tried to cancel Christmas and see where a famous author read his stories in York - and made us a present of Boxing Day,” Sarah said.

Each walk costs £12 per person and departs from the Statue of Constantine, Minster Yard.

Booking is essential. Tickets available from www.yorkchristmaswalkingtour.co.uk or from York Visitor Information Centre when it reopens.

If guidance changes and the walks can’t go ahead, there will be immediate, full refunds.