What makes Christmas special – from odd family traditions to festive favourites

Christmas is the time of year which brings families together (and can lead to some of the year’s biggest rows… which also tears them apart). 

For excited youngsters it means a visit from Father Christmas, while Great Aunt Alice is looking forward to a sherry in front of the Queen’s Speech on TV, if she can stay awake long enough after lunch. 

First there’s all that shopping for presents and a mountain of food so big it surely would see us through a Brexit no deal even in Project Fear’s worst nightmares. 

For many the real spirit of the festivities can only be found at Midnight Mass or an early morning church service, as they cut through all the commerciality and celebrate the birth of a very special baby.

So whatever your faith or age, whether you’ll be eating turkey or nut roast, Christmas has a different meaning for everybody.

Here two of our brilliant writers tell us what the season means to them:

Forces Favourites and silver sixpences


Christmas is a nostalgia-fest, with many memories of childhood. Singing carols alone at back doors in our mining town for coppers to buy my big brother a plasterer’s float he never used because he was a brickie.

The intense heat of the kitchen, where we lived most of the time, and the once-a-year thrill of eating a chicken I’d helped my mother pluck.

Sitting round the radio for Forces’ Favourites, with plum-voiced Judith Chalmers sending messages from home to servicemen overseas. I always wondered where RAF Munchengladbach was.

Visits by relatives were the worst bit. Best behaviour, and accepting a silver sixpence like it was a king’s ransom.

Making paper chains to decorate the primary school Christmas party, where I think I had my first crush, on Janet Smith. Memories I can josh with a wife who had a similar childhood, though they had a piano and sang carols at home in front of the fire.

The older I get, the more I treasure these recollections. They crowd out the hideous commercial reality of today.     

Christmas is a tenuous hold on innocence, like the birth of the child we are supposed to be celebrating.

It’s the people who matter, not the clichés


The meaning of Christmas, for me, has changed over the years. Nowadays I’m all about one thing – being realistic. Perfect family Christmases – where everything is wonderful, magical and flawless – only exist in movies.

In real life, stuff will go wrong, things will burn, someone will have a bit of a strop, guests will be late, not everyone will love their present, there will be noise, spillages, breakages and mess. And it’s all ok. Better than ok actually – it’s real.  

It’s beyond a cliché – come on, if you can’t get away with them at this time of the year, when can you? – but the only thing that matters is the people who matter. You need them around you.

Even if they’re arguing, flambé-ing bread sauce, or went vegan last week but declined to mention it until now. Happy Christmas? Far too much pressure.

And so I wish you all an Adequate Christmas… and an ok enough New Year.

  • Tell us what Christmas means to YOU and your loved ones. 
    Email  [email protected]  or write to What Christmas Means To Me, Features Department, Daily Mirror, One Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London, E14 5AP, including a phone number and, if possible, a photograph please.
    Unfortunately we won’t be able to return posted photos.

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