Christmas Q&A

Me as a young child, smiling and leaning against Santa Claus, who has his arm around me. It's my grandad dressed up. We're in front of the Christmas tree and presents, next to the living room window.

Here on this page are the answers to some common questions about how I celebrate Christmas, which I hope you find interesting. .Let me know if there are any other questions you’d like me to answer. I’ll keep this page updated each year if anything changes.

I also made a Q&A video in 2017, at the end of my first year in London, as that was a particularly significant Christmas for me. Some of my responses there may be slightly out of date now, but it should still be of interest.

Contents

Why do you get excited for Christmas?

I just love everything about Christmas. It’s a wonderful way to celebrate the end of the year, and I always enjoy the food and sweet treats, songs and music, lights and displays, TV and radio programmes, films, theatre shows and concerts, other special events, and above all getting together with family and friends, some of whom I may not have seen for a while. There’s always so much going on, and it’s completely different to any other time of year. So it’s a time to treasure and enjoy, while reflecting on the year gone by and refreshing yourself for the new year ahead.

We start gearing up for it after the fireworks on Guy Fawkes Night (November 5th), as Christmas is the next big event and it isn’t far away then. Although little things like mince pies can be available from as early as September, the shops really start to push their Christmas products straight after Halloween. while decorations and lights also start going up around the city then. So you can’t escape all the reminders about Christmas anyway. And I’m fine with that. It gives you something to look forward to, including all the events and shopping expeditions that you can enjoy in the lead-up to it. It all helps to get you in the mood, and you can ration how much you get involved with, so you don’t get too tired of all the festivities by the time the big day arrives.

Do you still have advent calendars?

Yes. I used to enjoy them as a child, and then I went through a period in my adult life where I didn’t bother with them. But when my mother and I were celebrating the end of our first year in London in 2017, we decided to get one, and we’ve continued with them every year since. We often go for Lindt and Marks & Spencer calendars as their chocolates are always nice, but sometimes we’ll go for something different as well.

The numbers on advent calendars often aren’t very easy to read, so it can take a bit of hunting to figure out which door to open. It would be nice to have ones that are more accessible. But then again, the hunting is worth it for the goodies inside!

Do you send out Christmas cards?

Yes – to my Aunt, close friends, colleagues, and some distant relatives who send us cards even though we have no other contact with them.

Do you travel at Christmas or stay at home?

As a child I would often travel to London with my parents to see our relatives during the Easter, summer and Christmas holidays. We would mainly stay at my Nan’s house (on my mother’s side of the family), with my Aunt and Uncle nearby. But I would also accompany my Dad to stay with his parents (my Gran and Grandad) for a few days elsewhere in the city.

Nowadays I actually live in London with my mother, and I don’t have grandparents to visit any more. My Aunt still lives nearby too, so we see her every so often. But I do travel back to Devon for a few days if possible, to have a Christmas meal with some former colleagues and school friends I’m still in touch with. So travelling in the opposite direction to my youth has become a nice tradition.

Do you go to any Christmas parties?

I do enjoy going out for Christmas meals with my friends, and to events arranged by social groups I’m part of in London. But I’ve not been invited to any parties where you get dressed up, dance at a disco, play games, etc with a large group of people. If I were given the opportunity to attend such an event, I would prefer it to be with someone I know, or with someone able to help me get my bearings at least, otherwise it would be too unfamiliar and overwhelming to try and mingle with a large group of complete strangers on my own in a new environment.

When I was young we had a party at school each year, of course. But outside of that environment my Christmas growing up was always spent with my family, during our visits to London as I mentioned earlier, and we weren’t big party people. One or two of my cousins, who were about the same age as me, would come around sometimes, so we’d hang out and have a bit of fun. And sometimes I would play games with my relatives, like Uno, Pontoon (aka Blackjack), Trivial Pursuit, etc. But we never had a big formal party or anything like that.

Do you put up Christmas decorations and a tree?

Yes. We make our lounge look festive during the first or second week of December.

We have a fibre-optic Christmas tree with branches that animatedly light up in various colours and patterns, which you can vary or stop by pressing a button, accompanied by lovely big stars with bright yellow lights around their edges. It looks really good.

We also decorate the walls of the room with the Christmas cards we’ve received (folded over a length of string), plus some tinsel and a couple of felt banners (one of which spells out Merry Christmas, while the other has bells and stars with Santa faces in the centre).

I like to stick everything up with Command Hooks, which use double-sided adhesive strips to stick to the wall. They’re really strong, and yet still easy to remove by tugging at the tab on the bottom, and they save the use of Blu-tac, pins, etc. I’m not affiliated or sponsored by the people behind them, they were just a bit of a revelation to me when I discovered them!

So we don’t go mad, and we don’t have the eyesight to put together anything elaborate, but we do make the place look nice and festive.

We always take the decorations down in early January, usually before Twelfth Night. That’s not out of any superstition, they just don’t need to be up any longer than that, as it feels like Christmas is done by then.

Talk us through your typical Christmas Day.

I’ll have a well-earned lie-in, then Mum and I will open the presents from my Aunt. As I said earlier, Mum and I will already know what we’ve got each other, so we don’t bother wrapping any presents up. Then we have our Christmas lunch, which I’ll mention when talking about food below.

We always like to listen to something together while we have dinner throughout the year, whether it’s a TV show, radio show or audiobook, and Christmas is no exception. It used to be the annual edition of Junior Choice on BBC Radio 2, which has a fun selection of old songs, such as Ernie (The Fastest Milkman In The West), My Brother, an excerpt from Sparky’s Magic Piano, etc. But it’s not been as good since its long-term host Ed ‘Stewpot’ Stewart passed away and other presenters have taken over, with too much chatter and an increasing number of songs we’re not into. So we put on something different these days, e.g. an audio reading of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, or we watch a Christmas special of a comedy like The Good Life that we both like.

After lunch we then just have a lazy afternoon. I can’t go out in London, because public transport and businesses close down for the day, and we can’t drive. So I’ll either just take a walk somewhere local, or I’ll relax indoors with music, TV, games, blogging, chatting to people online, etc. I usually go out walking more on the subsequent days really, because I can travel into the city again.

We’ll then have something nice and easy for tea, whether it’s turkey sandwiches or a ready meal or whatever we fancy. Then we’ll have some kind of dessert or cake later. Then after Mum’s gone to bed I’ll flop down in front of the TV, drinking and nibbling on treats for the night as I watch films, comedies or whatever I fancy.

So we’re happy with all that. It’s great to be able to have a lazy and over-indulgent couple of days, when you don’t have to worry about work or any other commitments!

When do you open your presents? What’s the best present you’ve ever received?

We open our presents on Christmas Morning, naturally. I appreciate that some people like to have a small present or two the day before, a bit like a starter before the main course, but we’ve never done that. We don’t have any special Christmas Eve traditions.

As a kid my best present would have been a video games console, or titles to play on whatever one I had at the time, as I used to enjoy that a lot. I had a DVD player one year too that I got plenty of use out of. I never asked for anything outlandish or crazy.

In my more recent adult years, however, I have a teddy bear with a Freddie Mercury t-shirt from my last girlfriend that I’m still very fond of, because he’s very cute, represents my favourite band and evokes lovely memories. I also have gloves with finger pads for using touchscreen phones that are also very useful.

Apart from that, my mother and I just ask each other what we want, and we get it. My mother’s blind and relies on me to help her with shopping, so she can’t go out and surprise me anyway. So I usually end up getting a DVD or music box set, or a bit of technology that I want, while I will sometimes take her out to a theatre show or get her some audiobooks that she likes. So we just keep it simple and easy, we’re very happy that way.

What do you eat during Christmas?

For our Christmas dinner we have a whole turkey or a turkey crown, with pigs in blankets (sausages wrapped in bacon), roast potatoes, Yorkshire puddings, sprouts, carrots, peas, cauliflower and turkey gravy. And on other days around the festive period we might also treat ourselves to a three bird roast, or a big gammon joint, or anything else that takes our fancy. We usually get the main things we need from Marks & Spencer using their click and collect Food To Order service, and in our regular grocery deliveries from Sainsbury’s. But we also get lovely food from Waitrose and other places occasionally too, as it’s nice to have a variety.

We also get through a lot of mince pies every year. They’re the one festive thing we start buying as soon as they appear in the shops, even if it’s as far back as September, as you can never have too many of them! We’ll get them from Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Marks & Spencer and occasionally other shops, in varieties including shortcrust, puff pastry and iced topped ones, so we have a nice selection.

We aren’t big fans of Christmas puddings though. Instead, Mum will sometimes have a small fruity Christmas cake with icing on top, as that suits her fine. And my annual tradition since childhood has been a Tunis cake, which is a madeira sponge with a layer of thick chocolate on top, and marzipan decorations in the middle. They’re quite hard to find in the shops sometimes, with the few outlets that do stock them bringing them out later than other products because they have a short use-by date. But I do like them when I get them.

We also like other cakes too of course, especially anything involving plenty of chocolate, and we usually share one or two yule logs each year. Plus we always treat ourselves to some nice desserts during December, such as roulades, cheesecakes, gateaus, trifles, etc. There are always so many temptations in the shops, you can never have just one!

We usually get a couple of big tins or tubs of sweets as well, such as Roses, Heroes or Celebrations, then mix them together in a big bowl. That way, we have lots of confectionery to nibble on throughout the festive period. I’ll often get some Pringles as well, as they’re always addictive, and some cider to drink. And we do get apples and oranges so we can say we’ve been a tiny bit healthy at least!

What are your favourite Christmas scents?

Christmas cooking is always a delightful smell, with all of the hunger-inducing aromas wafting out of the kitchen. But we have got reed diffusers sometimes, as they’re safer than candles when you can’t see well, plus they have a nice variety of scents and they last a while. A diffuser is basically a glass jar containing a perfumed liquid, into which you put special reed sticks. The perfume then gets absorbed up the sticks and evaporates gradually into the air, and you turn the sticks over periodically. So it’s a very subtle smell that keeps being generated for weeks.

What are your favourite Christmas movies?

I know some people don’t think that Die Hard is a Christmas movie, but it’s set at Christmas and is an amazing action film, and even its writer has confirmed that it is a festive flick, so I count it as one of my favourites. I also love the first 2 Home Alone films of course (the other sequels aren’t very good). Plus I enjoy other comedies like The Muppet Christmas CarolElf & Get Santa, the lovely old film It’s A Wonderful Life, and the animated short films The Snowman, The Snowman & The Snow Dog & Father Christmas. I don’t watch any of these things every single year, but I revisit each of them every so often.

Those are just a few examples, I’ve seen many more of course. Check out the Christmas posts in my Favourites series to see any others that I’ve mentioned in recent years.

What are your favourite Christmas TV shows?

There are many great programmes I like. For the shows in this list, I will always watch any new episodes that come out, along with a selection of some of their older specials (particularly some of the classic sitcom episodes):

There will be others I haven’t mentioned of course, I can’t list everything. And there will always be new shows each year that get my attention on TV and online. So there’s always a lot for me to choose from. Check out the Christmas posts in my Favourites series to see some of the programmes I’ve mentioned in my blog in recent years.

What are your favourite Christmas songs?

If I had to choose, my top 20 Christmas tracks would be:

  1. Merry Xmas Everybody – Slade
  2. Fairytale Of New York – The Pogues & Kirsty MacColl
  3. Merry Christmas Everyone – Shakin’ Stevens (including his newer version)
  4. I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday – Wizzard
  5. Thank God It’s Christmas – Queen
  6. In Dulci Jubilo – Mike Oldfield. We used to dance around the pool table to this in our boarding house at school, followed by the next song. Happy days!
  7. Driving Home For Christmas – Chris Rea
  8. Step Into Christmas – Elton John
  9. It’s Christmas Time – Status Quo
  10. Stop The Cavalry – Jona Lewie
  11. Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree – Mel Smith & Kim Wilde
  12. Last Christmas – Wham!
  13. Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Band Aid
  14. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – John Lennon
  15. A Spaceman Came Travelling – Chris De Burgh
  16. Wonderful Christmastime – Paul McCartney
  17. Dream A Dream – Charlotte Church & Billy Gilman
  18. It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year – Andy Williams
  19. What Are We Gonna Get ‘Er Indoors? – Dennis Waterman & George Cole, as their characters Terry and Arthur from the TV series Minder).
  20. Cashing In On Christmas – Bad News. This was a spoof heavy metal band from Channel 4’s comedy series The Comic Strip Presents, featuring Rik Mayall, Ade Edmondson, Nigel Planer and Peter Richardson. Queen guitarist Brian May, who produced their album, features on the track too.

Check out My Christmas Music Collection for all the songs I own, which I’ve also compiled in a Youtube playlist.

Have you been to any carol concerts?

Yes, I’ve been to a few. For example, in December 2017 I went with the social group Thinking Bob to a charity concert at The Royal Albert Hall called Christmas With The Stars, in aid of the blood cancer charity Bloodwise. And in December 2018 I went with my girlfriend at the time to Carols From Around The World at St Saviour’s Church, Pimlico.

As a kid I knew some amusing variations to Christmas carols as well, including:

  • Jingle Bells, Batman Smells
  • Good King Wenceslas – We had a parody of this in one of our school plays, that went: “The premises of ‘Good, King & Wenceslas’, looked out over Clyst St. Stephen, opposite the cafe at the roundabout, selling deep-pan pizzas, crisp and even!”
  • While Shepherds Watched – In school we would often sing “While shepherds washed their socks by night, all watching ITV, the angel of the Lord came down, and switched to BBC!” And here’s another parody of that nature. Or of course there’s the version Alice teaches the children on The Vicar Of Dibley – “While shepherds washed their socks by night, all seated on a bank, an angel who was bored came down, and taught them how to…” – well, you get the idea with that!

Have you been to any pantomimes?

Yes, I saw many as a child of course. And since moving to London I’ve been to a few with audio description, which has been really useful:

Did you take part in school plays at Christmas?

Yes, I was in all of them when I was at school. There was one that I almost missed though, because my Grandad died just beforehand, so I had to travel to London for the funeral. But I still got back in time for the play, I just had to take on a very minor role instead of the star part I had originally been rehearsing for.

But apart from that, I had good roles in our other school productions, either as a character in the story or a member of the band. The very first play I remember was called Tarfa And The Trolls where, despite being quite a shy kid, I somehow had the lead role of Grandfather Tarfa, which I managed to pull off.

In another year we had a Medieval play, where I had to carry a boar’s head into the Medieval banquet, singing The Boar’s Head Carol that had a chorus in Latin. Then there was another play called Ocean World, which was set in the sea. And there was one about Christmas around the world, made up of various different mini plays about festive celebrations in different countries.

My favourite of all though was Stateside Express, which was a musical about a road trip across America, with songs like Hello Dolly, Three Wheels On My Wagon, Ole Man River, and so on. It also had a Can-Can sequence, a Bugsy Malone scene, and various other fun sketches. It was really fun and varied.

And another favourite was a comedy horror musical called Dracula Spectacula, about some kids who had been taken on a school trip to Transylvania, and the trouble they got into. I was a main character in that, and it had a lot of great humour and fun songs.

So I really enjoyed my school plays, they were always an event to look forward to. We never did The Nativity, we always did something fun and original and different every single year.

My 2017 Q&A video contains a few clips from my school plays if you want to see some examples. They’re old VHS videos filmed from the back of the hall, so the quality’s not great, but they bring back good memories for me.

Do you like snow?

Yes. We don’t get it very often and it doesn’t usually stay around for long, so it’s always a delight when we do get some. We’ve had it more in London than at our old home by the coast in Devon though, which isn’t a surprise. I wouldn’t want too much of it though, as it’s dangerous to go out in it then, and it gets a bit too cold!

View outside my back bedroom window, with a dusting of snow over the back gardens and rooftops.

Do you wear Christmas jumpers?

Yes, I’ve got a few that I really like and wear every year:

  • Queen jumper – Black – This has the 4 members of the band wearing Santa hats, in between the words “Snowhemian Rhapsody”.
  • Doctor Who jumper – Navy – This has the phrase “Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey” over an image of the Tardis surrounded by snowflakes.
  • Only Fools And Horses jumper – Navy – This has the words “Cushty Christmas” in large yellow letters above an image of the Trotters’ three-wheel van with a Christmas tree on the roof rack. The rest of the jumper is covered in a variety of snowflake patterns.
  • London jumper – Navy by Charles Wilson – This has black and brown silhouettes of London buildings on the bottom half, such as Big Ben, Tower Bridge and The Gherkin, and above that is a white silhouette of Santa and 3 reindeer flying over them. The rest of the jumper is covered in small white stars.

What is your favourite Christmas memory?

School plays are a very fond memory from my childhood, which I’ve already mentioned above. But I also remember my grandad dressing up as Santa Claus – not just to entertain the family, but also to deliver presents to the children at the local hospital, which was really nice of him.

And more recently the most significant memory for my mother and I is moving to London at Christmas in 2016, and the first proper Christmas we had a year later once we had settled in. And then in 2018 I celebrated Christmas with my first girlfriend in the city, which was also very special.

Conclusion

And that’s it, I hope you enjoyed looking through that. As I said at the start, do feel free to answer the questions yourself if you’d like to, and to ask me about anything I haven’t mentioned.

My very best wishes to all my followers and supporters for a wonderful Christmas and a very happy New Year! 🙂

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