The Ghosts of Christmas’s Past

I am a music snob. This has been made clear many times in this blog. So why do I like cheesy Christmas songs? It has become a tradition hereabouts that come the 13th of December (Christmas starts then in our household. It’s the day after Mrs L365’s mother’s birthday so we have inherited from her side of the family the tradition of not mentioning anything festive until after that date) I upload a Christmas playlist onto my ipod. Before the ipod it was a festive CD and before that a compilation tape of yuletide hits. These songs are then played at every opportunity until the decorations come down.

So, why would someone who rails against anything so crass and commercial as to be in the charts happily inflict Merry Christmas Everybody by Slade and Mud’s Lonely This Christmas and many, many more on his family?

I have always loved Christmas. Not just because it was the season of getting but also because of what I got up to around the festive period. I have no memory of believing in Santa, I suspect my parents weren’t enthusiastic enough to keep the pretence going for long. I also suspect that in letting me know who Santa really was then they were also informing me who I had impress with my behaviour to get any presents. Furthermore, I wasn’t an easy child to surprise with a present. When I look back the presents the ones I remember most fondly were book vouchers, record tokens and John Menzies gift certificates (there is a good way to start a Scottish argument – pronounce Menzies).  I would be desperate for the shops to re-open so I could charge in and buy the books I really wanted – mainly cartoon books like Asterix, Peanuts, BC, Wizard of Id and Commando books. At Menzies I could also purchase the Airfix kits I had been keeping an eye on all year. My parents didn’t have a clue which were good or bad, they thought the boring fiddly sailing ships were a good choice. The record token only became a great gift as I got a little older and I had an idea of what I wanted and not just what was popular. I could move on from the Osmonds (except for Crazy Horses, I still like that)

YF Group Shot

Our Youth Fellowship. Almost 30 years ago! I’m in there somewhere but you’ll have to find me. This shot was obviously taken before 9pm as the minute the clock struck nine we were out of there and off to the nearby pub 

It was in my late teens that I really started to enjoy Christmas. I was a member of a youth fellowship in our local church and every Christmas we put on a show in the church hall. At first the shows would be a series of sketches. Mainly our favourite Monty Python and Not the Nine O’clock news stuff with a few sketches of our own and some songs thrown in. Great fun for us but must have been a bit of an ordeal for the audience. Still we played to full houses for the 2 or 3 nights we were on.

Elaine and Bobby

                     One of our early shows This is  a Fawlty Towers sketch

We became more ambitious and wrote our own pantomimes. Oh no you didn’t! Oh, yes we did! They were quite a production and we spent most of the pre Christmas period in the church hall preparing and rehearsing. There was a great sense of community and involvement. We would usually be kicked out of the hall at about nine at night and decamp to the pub up the hill from the church to carry on our plotting, planning and script tweaking.


Dance of the Llittle Swans

Dance of the Little Swans  from Swan Lake as interpreted by us. This was taken during rehearsals.  I’m the one on the left. 

I suppose this is the most memorable time not just for the shows but because of the age we were. This was a group of young people in their late teens. Starting colleges, universities or their first jobs. We were all taking our first steps out into the world together. Sharing the experiences and excitements. We were discovering the new freedoms available to us. We were embarking on adventures in cars, staying out late, drinking alcohol, smoking and  the big one – the opposite sex!

dance of the little swans
 The one on the right was the assistant minister of our church…honest. He is in fact a quite senior member of the Church of Scotland now.

All of these new experiences came together in the undoubted highlight of our festive period. The apocalyptic post show party. This bacchanalian hoolly was a car crash of an affair. All Hell broke loose as adrenalin saturated performers let it all go spectacularly with rivers of booze, pizza and more booze.

Woody the Ugly Sister
          Me as an ugly sister. I may be a bit biased but I don’t think I’m that ugly.

Christmas Day was a bit of a let-down after that, full of being polite to relations and no wild dancing or using you’re newly acquired best lines on girls. It was a chance to rest and refuel before attacking Hogmanay in a similar fashion to the post show party.

In the years after that as we all headed into our twenties and responsibilities. Christmas was less of a rip roaring party and more of a rest and a few days off. Later when we had children of our own Christmas changed again and became a series of nursery parties and over excited little people. It all culminated in a bank account emptying day of ripped wrapping paper and hysterical children.

I think the shows are why I am so fond of Christmas songs, whether they are carols or pop songs. We would listen to them in the church hall over and over in the lead up to our Christmas extravaganza. Firstly on a little tape recorder, then,  when we became dissatisfied with the tinny sound as we drowned it out with our rehearsals, something a bit bigger. Finally on to the PA when the stage was set and ready. So as we came closer and closer to Christmas the music got louder and louder.

I wonder what it’ll be like when our children are grown up and we have our festive period to ourselves. Can we start behaving in a reckless and hedonistic teenage manner again?


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