Christmas Present – A Beginners Guide to Christmas Traditions (part one)

Photo by Jill Wellington on

You may believe that Christmas is all about eating and drinking, but for many, the traditions of the season are equally important (as long as they feature eating and drinking).  My Christmas offering this year – which will be concluded on Friday 24th December – is a simple guide to the customs we all hold most dear – as long as somebody has filled our glass first…

Advent Calendars – may be traditional in the run-up to Christmas, but as a child I can never remember even seeing one.  It could be that they didn’t exist – that they had not yet become ‘traditional’ – it could be that my parents could not afford them, or it could be that they knew full well that if they had bought me one, I would have wrenched all of the little paper doors off on the first of December and eaten all of the chocolate before the first of the Christmas lights had fused.  Whatever the reason, I was totally unaware of them until I had children of my own.  Back then they were all Postman Pat branded cardboard, with twenty-four numbered paper hatches, each containing an unidentifiable gobbet of something sweet and brown.  Today they may be finely stitched fabric, perfectly pierced and crafted treen or intricately illustrated seasonal panoramas: the twenty five little doors concealing gins of the world; handmade candles; the various component parts of something you have never wanted, but now feel obliged to construct whilst everybody else is watching ‘Call the Midwife’ on Christmas day; hand embroidered mottos, or canapés of the world.  What I really need are twenty four little cavities containing suggestions for acceptableChristmas presents for my wife and a twenty fifth containing a comprehensive list of suitable excuses for buying her a foot spa again.

Board Games – are what Christmas is all about: pouting children, over-competitive adults and assorted threats of violence.  Modern board games can be super-complicated, even when you are not struggling to digest the fourteen sprouts which are bobbing, uncomfortably, on the crest of half a dozen gins, two glasses of prosecco and a triple Drambuie, and are seldom suitable for family gatherings in which the only reason that Great Aunty Valerie has not yet punctured Uncle Derek with a size ten crochet hook is the fact that, after one too many egg-nogs, she is currently attempting to knot the fast unravelling fireside rug with a soup ladle.  Stick to the simple and traditional: Snakes and Ladders, Ludo or Monopoly and accept that no game is ever going to finish without tears, recriminations and somebody ending up with a secondhand sprout in the breast pocket of their favourite silk shirt.  Never get drawn into Twister: nobody needs that pushed into their face at three o’clock in the afternoon.  There is little worse than heading towards the New Year with an embittered spouse and a hip that clunks every time you attempt to pick up your spilled cheese balls.

CD’s – specifically the CD’s that only see the light of day on Christmas morn: ‘Val Doonican sings Albanian Sea Shanties’; forty seven failed auditionees for Britain’s Got Talent all sing the same Slade anthem in a range of styles and keys unknown to all but the most dedicated of amateur cat spayers; Aled Jones ‘After the Snowman’, you know the kind of thing…  The best thing that can happen to these discs is that they remain where they lay for the other 364 days of the year, in the box with Barry Manilow sings the songs of Marilyn Manson and the Original Cast recording of Lionel Bart’s ‘Twang’.  Fans of traditional vinyl will be keen, of course, to listen instead to the true crackle of Christmas – “It is very important that you can appreciate the full dynamic register of Bony M’s ‘When a Child is Born’” –  and will need little encouragement to chastise any child that inadvertently causes vibration near the yuletide pickup.  Those of more tender years will, of course, hook up to Spotify and not spare a single thought for all the writers of Christmas classics, dying in penury as a consequence.

Carol Singing – Wrap up warm (UK and all points north) light the candles and head out into the dark armed with a fourteen page lyric sheet and a battery operated cassette player loaded with the wrong cassette.  This is a rare seasonal opportunity to meet up with several dozen like-minded souls (the only other chance being the bi-annual bus trip to the Blake’s Seven appreciation society convention and candlelit supper in Llandrindod Wells) and annoy the hell out of the neighbours.  If you know anybody who is in the very early stages of learning how to play the trumpet, encourage them to join in and persuade them that it always sounds much better when they play it loud.  If householders refuse to give you money for your efforts, remind them that it is all for charity (never say which one) and refuse to move from under their window until Eastenders has finished and the kids have gone to bed with an ipad and a family pack of Tuc Sandwich crackers.

Clothes – ‘Tis the season of the Christmas jumper and the tinsel bedecked shirt, of bow ties and reindeer braces, of Santa hats and inappropriate underwear.  Embrace the satin waistcoat.  Celebrate the on-sock bell.  Honour the pom-pom.  Enjoy the fact that, for one day at least, you are not always the worst-dressed person in the room.  True Christmas spirit will lead you to consider having a limb transplant in order to fit the pullover a great-aunt has just knitted for you.  Whatever you wear on Christmas Day, wear it proudly – before putting it in a bag in the attic and ensuring that it spends a minimum of 364 days up there before it comes down again as multi-coloured mulch.

Coinage – placing good luck tokens – most often silver coins – into the Christmas Pudding has always been considered a sign of good fortune, especially if you happen to be a dentist.  Remember that silver 3d coins are almost exactly child oesophagus-sized and carry more harmful germs than a Wuhan laboratory.  The most fortuitous addition to such an augmented Christmas pudding is actually a fully comprehensive insurance policy.

Decorations – Hanging the decorations is often seen as the second task of Christmas.  Getting the bloody things down from the attic is the first.  Christmas decorations are traditionally carefully stored away on the Twelfth Day of Christmas so that they can be safely disposed of on the first day of December the following year.  What can be broken, taffled, knotted or torn will inevitably become so after eleven unmolested months in the roofspace.  How this occurs is one of life’s great mysteries, like why women are so drawn to shoes they cannot walk in or why men’s eyes so seldom work above breast-level.  If you feel that you must string 32 mega-watts worth of electric bulbage across the front of your house, accompanied by a thirty foot tall inflatable snowman and an animatronic crib on the front lawn, then there is probably no more suitable time to do so – unless, of course, next-door’s budgie has just died…

End of part one – don’t miss part two, released Friday 24th December: get the lowdown on Elf on the Shelf, Mistletoe, Posadas Pinatas, the Yule Goat and much, much more…

15 thoughts on “Christmas Present – A Beginners Guide to Christmas Traditions (part one)

  1. Christmas, but once a year. Once is close to enough most years. Again ,more than a few snort out loud moments, Colin, a very enjoyable read.
    Christmas was memorable one year at our house- traditional sappy tree, traditional silv’ry star atop it, traditional hand-me-down decorations, those old gold Christmassly festive festive but criminally fragile baubles that seasonally fall from the tree when the wire hook finally rusts away… falling in the path of an over-excited bare-footed seven year old daughter… Merry bloody Christmas morning. Happy holidays, my- or her- foot.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I never had an Advent calendar either and probably for the same reasons.
    I also agree that Twister is probably the worst thing anyone can bring out. I shudder just thinking about it…

    Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.