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.

On this page I answer some common questions about how I celebrate Christmas, and I’ll update it each year as appropriate. I hope you find it interesting, and let me know if there are any other questions you’d like me to answer.

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 Some of my responses there may be slightly out of date now, but it should still be of interest.

Questions

  1. When do you start getting excited for Christmas?
  2. What do you enjoy most about Christmas?
  3. Do you still have advent calendars?
  4. Do you send out Christmas cards?
  5. Do you travel at Christmas or stay at home?
  6. Do you go to any Christmas parties?
  7. Do you decorate your house?
  8. When do you put up your Christmas tree?
  9. Do you have a real or fake Christmas tree?
  10. What tops your tree?
  11. How long do you leave up your decorations for?
  12. Do you have any Christmas Eve traditions?
  13. Do you open your presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning?
  14. What is the best Christmas present you’ve ever received?
  15. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving presents?
  16. As a kid, what was the one crazy, wacky, extravagant gift you always asked for, but never received?
  17. When and how did you learn about Santa Claus?
  18. Did you take part in school plays at Christmas?
  19. Talk us through your typical Christmas Day.
  20. What do you eat for Christmas dinner?
  21. What’s your favourite thing to eat during the Christmas holidays?
  22. What is your favourite Christmas scent?
  23. What are your favourite Christmas movies?
  24. What are your favourite Christmas TV shows?
  25. What are your favourite Christmas songs?
  26. Have you been to any carol concerts?
  27. Have you been to any pantomimes?
  28. Do you like snow?
  29. Do you wear Christmas jumpers?
  30. Do you have a favourite Christmas memory?

1. When do you start getting excited for Christmas?

After Guy Fawkes Night, November 5th. Once the fireworks are out of the way, Christmas is the next big occasion to look forward to, and it’s not 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!

2. What do you enjoy most about Christmas?

All of it. Christmas is a wonderful way to celebrate the end of the year, and I always enjoy the food and sweet treats, the songs and music, the lights and displays, the films, TV shows and radio programmes, the theatre shows, concerts and 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.

3. Do you still have advent calendars?

Yes. I used to enjoy them as child, and then 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 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 the hunting is worth it for the goodies inside!

Lindt Excellence Advent Calendar - Discover 2 little tastes of luxury every day. The large background of the calendar shows a square piece of chocolate being dipped into a rippling pool of chocolate.

4. Do you send out Christmas cards?

Yes – to my Aunt, close friends, colleagues, and some distant relatives that we never have any other contact with (as they always send us cards).

Christmas cards hung over a length of string along the wall.

5. Do you travel at Christmas or stay at home?

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

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.

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 my colleagues and meet one or two of my old school friends, so that’s become a nice new tradition.

A long line of decorated Christmas trees along a wall by the pavement, each with labels representing a different charity.

6. Do you go to any Christmas parties?

I do enjoy going out for social Christmas meals, with friends of mine, and visual impairment groups I’m connected with in London, and a meal with my work colleagues in Devon. And I’ll occasionally go to Christmas dinners with non-disabled social groups in London too.

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 some kind of 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 round sometimes, and we’d hang out for a bit 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.

Me as a young child, with my cousin of a similar age, sitting together on a big wide armchair and smiling.

7. Do you decorate your house?

Yes. We decorate the living room with a fibre-optic tree that animatedly lights up in various colours, as well as putting up our Christmas cards, some tinsel and baubles, and some felt banners that spell out Merry Christmas or have bells and stars with Santa faces in the centre.

I like to stick them up with things called 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 revolution 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.

Festive banners hung on the wall on 2 lengths of string. The top string has alternating red and white letters spelling Merry Christmas. The lower string has alternating red and green stars and bells with Santa faces in their centres.

Threaded along a line of string on the wall are alternating red and green cutouts of reindeer with Christmas greetings written on them. Below them is a long length of golden brown tinsel along the wall.

Baubles threaded along a line of string across the wall, above a line of Christmas cards hanging over another length string along the wall.

8. When do you put up your Christmas tree?

Usually in the first or second week of December.

9. Do you have a real or fake Christmas tree?

We’ve got a fake one, as they’re much easier to look after and can be reused every year. It’s got fibre optic branches that light up in various pulsing and flashing patterns, which you can vary or stop by pressing a button, along with lovely big stars with bright yellow lights around their edges. It looks really good.

IMG_2300

10. What tops your tree?

Nothing, you can’t put anything on top of our tree. It just has some of the fibre optic leaves sticking up, which gives us a nice little light show at the top.

11. How long do you leave up your decorations for?

Once I go back to work in early January it feels like Christmas is done, so we usually start taking them down then. We might leave them up until Twelfth Night at the very latest, as is traditional, but it’s not essential. It just depends how we feel.

12. Do you have any Christmas Eve traditions?

No. If it falls on a weekday, I’m usually at work anyway – even if it’s really quiet and we finish early, we still need to be open for at least half the day. Whereas if it’s at a weekend I’ll probably go out somewhere if the weather’s alright, either for a walk, or to meet someone, or to visit something interesting.

13. Do you open your presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning?

Christmas Morning of course. I appreciate that some people have a tradition of having a small present or two on Christmas Eve, a bit like a starter before the main course, but we’ve never done that.

Me as a young child, sitting with my cousin next to a Christmas tree surrounded by presents in the lounge.

14. What’s the best Christmas present you’ve ever received?

As a kid it was probably a video games console or video games, as I used to play those a lot. As for more recent years, 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, things like that. So we just keep it simple and easy, we’re very happy that way.

15. Which do you prefer, giving or receiving presents?

Giving of course, because you get to see people’s reactions, especially if it’s something they really wanted and/or really like. Receiving presents is cool too of course, but the act of giving is more special and rewarding.

16. As a kid, what was the one crazy, wacky, extravagant gift you always asked for but never received?

I never asked for anything outlandish. I was a quiet kid really, and only ever asked for things that I knew my parents could afford and get hold of easily. A video games console or a DVD player were the most extravagant things I ever asked for, and I got those.

17. When and how did you learn about Santa Claus?

Quite early on I suspect. I can’t remember exactly when, but it was easy to figure out that it was my Dad dishing out the presents from quite a young age.

18. Did you take part in school plays at Christmas?

Yes, I was in all of them when I was at school. Though there was one that I almost missed, because my Grandad died just beforehand, so I had to travel to London for the funeral. I did get back in time for the play, but I ended up having a very minor role instead of the star part I had originally been rehearsing for.

But apart from that, I had good roles in school plays, either in the band or acting in the play itself. The very first play I remember was called Tarfa And The Trolls. And, despite being quite a shy kid, somehow I had the lead role of Grandfather Tarfa, which I managed to pull off.

Me and another boy, dressed in blue tops and red trousers, with blue and red hats, crouching on stage next to a spiky wall, hiding from the people we're spying on.

In another year we had a Medieval play, where I had to carry the 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 probably 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.

19. 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, the contents of which I talk about more for the next question

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 listen to other things these days, such as a reading of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, or a Christmas special of a comedy we like.

After lunch we then just have a lazy afternoon. We can’t go out much here in London, because we can’t drive and the public transport doesn’t run for the day, so I’ll either just take a walk somewhere local, or I’ll relax indoors with music, TV, gaming, blogging, chatting to people online, etc. I usually go out walking more on the subsequent days really, because public transport’s running again and I can venture into the city.

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 dow 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!

20. What do you eat for 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 what we need from Marks & Spencer using their click and collect Food To Order service, and in our regular grocery deliveries from Sainsbury’s. We’ve also had lovely food from Waitrose and the Devon-based Greendale Farm Shop some years as well.

Large turkey crown from Marks & Spencer

4 Bird Roast from Marks & Spencer - turkey, duck, chicken and pheasant with pork, mulled cider, apple and sage stuffing.

21. What’s your favourite thing to eat during the Christmas holidays?

The turkey dinner is obviously the main highlight. And we get through a LOT of mince pies – 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 those! We’ll get them from Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer, in varieties with shortcrust and puff pastry, and some with icing on top, so we have a nice selection.

Mince pies from Marks & Spencer - All butter shortcrust pastry pies deep filled with plump vine fruits, cranberries, clementine, cherries and brandy.

Mum and I aren’t big fans of Christmas puddings though. She will sometimes have a small fruity Christmas cake with icing on top, 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 these days, with the few outlets that do stock them bringing them out very close to Christmas Day because they have a short use-by date. But I do like them when I get them.

Mum and I also like other cakes though, 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!

Tunis cake from Marks & Spencer - madeira sponge with a thick chocolate layer on top, and a marzipan holly decoration in the centre.

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!

22. What is your favourite Christmas scent?

Christmas cooking is always a delightful smell, with all of the hunger-inducing aromas wafting out of the kitchen. But we also get 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.

Scented diffusers from Marks & Spencer - Lavender & Chamomile, Pink Peony, Neroli, Pine and Basil, Vanilla Bean and Sweet Apple

23. 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, so I count it as one of the best festive treats. Home Alone & Home Alone 2 are my favourite comedy films (though the other sequels aren’t worth bothering with), while I’ve also enjoyed The Muppet Christmas Carol and Elf in the past. I’ve also seen It’s A Wonderful Life, which is a lovely old film, plus I like the animated short films The Snowman, The Snowman & The Snow Dog & Father Christmas.

Those are just a few examples, I’ve seen various others over the years. Check out My Christmas Posts to see any others that I’ve mentioned in my posts.

24. What are your favourite Christmas TV shows?

There are many programmes that I enjoy every year. 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 My Christmas Posts to see some of the programmes I’ve mentioned in my blog over the years.

The Christmas edition of the Radio Times magazine, with a cover picture of Santa Claus smiling and holding up his arms in celebration, above the text Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

25. 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. Dream A Dream – Charlotte Church & Billy Gilman
  7. Step Into Christmas – Elton John
  8. It’s Christmas Time – Status Quo
  9. Driving Home For Christmas – Chris Rea
  10. 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!
  11. Stop The Cavalry – Jona Lewie
  12. Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree – Mel Smith & Kim Wilde
  13. Last Christmas – Wham!
  14. Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Band Aid
  15. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – John Lennon
  16. A Spaceman Came Travelling – Chris De Burgh
  17. Wonderful Christmastime – Paul McCartney
  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.

26. 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.

Performers on the stage. From front to back there is a solo singer, a line of backing singers, the band in a semi-circle, and a choir spanning multiple rows curving around the back of the stage.

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!

27. 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:

28. 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.

29. 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.

Black jumper with an image of the band Queen in the centre. The 4 members of the band are shown as headshots, with Freddie in the front, Brian at the back, John on the left and Roger on the right, in the pose from their Bohemian Rhapsody video. But here they all have red and white Santa hats superimposed on their heads. The image of the band is surrounded by snowflakes, and it all sits between the words Snowhemian Rhapsody, printed in large white letters.

A dark navy jumper with a white design in the centre. The centre shows a large white Tardis with snowflakes falling around it. Above it are the words Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey, and below is the word Christmas. At the very top and bottom is a row of snowmen, snowflakes and Christmas trees.

Navy jumper covered in a variety of patterned snowflakes. At the top of the chest is Cushty Christmas written in big yellow letters. Below this is the Trotters yellow three-wheeler van, with a green Christmas tree on the roof rack.

Navy jumper with black and brown silhouettes of London landmarks on the bottom half, while white silhouettes of Santa and 3 reindeer fly over the top. White stars cover the background of the entire jumper.

30. 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.

My elderly grandad smiling as he holds up a large bulging white sack with a picture of Santa on the front.

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.

On the ice rink in front of the Natural History Museum, people skate around a tall Christmas tree, lit by thousands of small lights, with a bright star on the top. A tree to the right, outside the rink, that lost its leaves in the autumn, has lights all over its trunk and branches.

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. And be sure to check out my other Christmas posts as well!

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

A selfie of me standing in front of the massive Covent Garden Christmas tree, which is covered in bright lights.

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