It’s that that time of year again. When the dark night draw in the cold, but there are classic movies on every other channel. When brass bands and choirs play for money outside shops filled with tacky gifts and novelty jumpers. When the nation is divided between those who embrace the festive spirit and those who attack it.
I love Christmas. For me, it starts in September. My mum’s birthday is the last big birthday of the year, and so Christmas shopping usually starts the day after. And, of course, the shops have already started putting out the Christmas chocs and giftsets of body lotion nobody will ever use.
It really becomes Christmas when the first song is heard in the shopping centre. Usually mid-November. By now, every store has its own Christmas playlist.
I haven’t written a ‘Music Memories’ for a while. I’d hoped to make it a bi-weekly feature, but preparation for the future got in the way of remembering the past. Christmas, however, is a time when the past is mulled over with a glass of wine and cheery tune.
Here’s my Christmas playlist:
#1 Wizzard – I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day
We used to live close to lead singer Roy Wood, and as a naïve youngster I was always surprised that he didn’t have long white hair. We’d see him at the local store where my mum used to work, getting his milk or bread, and we’d get so excited. No matter what time of year, my brother and I would start singing this tune; often out loud enough for him to give us a very dirty look and the tiniest of a smile. We were too young to know any of Wizzard’s other songs, but we loved this one.
And a Christmas playlist wouldn’t be the same without it.
#2 Band Aid – Do They Know It’s Christmas? (1984)
This song defines Christmas for me. A time when we think of everyone: those we love, those we used to love, and those who need our love.
I’m quite a charitable person. I don’t have a million direct debits to faceless charity organisations or sponsor a zoo of animals across the globe. But I’ve always believed that you should do as you preach, and I believe a pure heart is a charitable heart.
When I was a kid, too small to roam the streets alone but living in a safe enough community that my parents didn’t worry too much, we used to give out mince pies to the homeless. I don’t remember whether we made them at home or at school, or even a combination of both. But I remember handing the warm handmade pies, all lopsided and spilling with mincemeat. It wasn’t much, and it was one night of the year, but it made a difference.
Band Aid 30 has been slated this year but it still got to Number One. Because it isn’t much, and it’s only once every ten years, but it makes a difference.
#3 The Pogues feat. Kirsty MacColl –Fairytale of New York
This is one of my favourite songs, and is the first to be placed on any Christmas playlist. A hauntingly beautiful sound, bringing together all the emotions of Christmas time.
And I love the video because one my first ever celebrity crushes features as a police officer who arrests MacGowan in the opening scenes. I loved Matt Dillon as a teenage girl; always did go for the bad boy with the cute smile.
Besides, Christmas is the time of year I drink the most alcohol, so a song sung with a drunken slur fits the bill.
#4 Stille Nacht
There are certain elements of my German heritage which I am incredibly proud of. Just as much as my English/Welsh heritage, but somewhat ignited by the anger people still have for the nation.
When Nana was alive, we opened presents with her on Christmas Eve, as is tradition in Germany and many European countries. Our Christmas dinner comes with about six different types of veg, as we have Sauerkraut and Rotkaul alongside the peas and mashed potato. I actually can’t stand either of these German side dishes, but I would certainly pass up on Christmas cake or Christmas pudding for a slice of Stollen.
Now, because she isn’t here to celebrate with us, we visit her grave on Christmas Eve, decorating it with flowers just as she would want it.
And for as long as I’ve known, whenever the song Silent Night is played, I sing the German chorus.
#5 Manic Street Preachers – The Ghost of Christmas
It was difficult to select which Manics Christmas song to choose – this or James Dean Bradfield’s version of Wham’s Last Christmas. But this one is perfect.
A song of nostalgia, looking back at their childhood Christmases. Of a time when imagination came in the sackload and the football wasn’t on the screen of a brand new flat screen.
This is what Christmas will always be about for me. The gifts and the silliness. It reminds me of some of the best Christmases.
The year my brother learned how to crawl onto the kitchen counter and downed Mum’s Snowball. He slept well that night.
The first year Christmas was just Mum, Johnnie and me. We both got new stereos and we spent Christmas morning wrapped up in our dressing gowns on Mum’s bed listening to our favourite tunes.
The Christmas Eve I had to work, when Mum drove to Lincoln to pick me up at 8am on Christmas morning so that I could spend the day with family. I looked a mess – pretty much straight out of the shower and into the car.
Christmas is a time for joy, but sorrow hangs so easily over our heads at this time of year. I’m not ashamed to admit that I cry every year when I write my Christmas cards – for those who I no longer need to write them to and those who I should be handing them over to instead posting far far away. Not writing the word Grandad broke my heart only this weekend.
But Christmas is a time to remember. Memories of the good times. Getting my first CD player. The day my baby brother was born. Standing at the back of the local chapel, with the man who baptised me at the other end of the aisle, and my grandparent’s singing Christmas carols. And the clip Graandad once gave me when I sang the ‘wrong words’ to Silent Night a little too loudly.
This is my Christmas playlist, scattered with glittering Christmas memories.