Friday, 24 December 2010

Twenty-Fourth Day of Advent : Christmas Eve

- December 24th : Christmas Eve -

When Charles Dickens’ classic yuletide tale, A Christmas Carol, was first published in 1843 there was a feeling throughout Great Britain that the moral fibre of society was slowly disintegrating. Not only this but Christmastime itself was already becoming immensely unpopular and, as a consequence, was beginning to die out, particularly in Britain.

Queen Victoria had only been on the throne for six years and her husband, Prince Albert, had already begun to introduce new elements into the celebration of Christmas from his homeland of Germany (most famously the Christmas tree and the Christmas card). The consequences of this, along with the timely publication of Dickens’ first Christmas Book, had a considerable impact upon the way Victorian society began to perceive this ancient Christian festival.

It has often been said that Charles Dickens’ set of five Christmas Books, A Christmas Carol in particular, had an enormous influence on the sudden resurrection in the popularity of Christmas in the mid-1800s, and there’s no doubt it is still one of the most treasured and beloved works of literary fiction, either a Christmas or anyother time of the year.

I’ve said this before somewhere on this blog, but - I read this novel every year in the run up to Christmas; starting on December 20th, with one chapter a day, finishing on Christmas Eve. Have done for the past two decades. It’s as much a part of the Christmas tradition for me as turkey and stuffing!

Some people dismiss the novel as an unimportant bit of Christmas fluff - many basing their spurious judgments on the many adaptations they’ve watched over the years, many varying wildly in quality. But this is simply not true. Although it has a very warm and shining message at its very core, A Christmas Carol can be at times a frighteningly dark and brooding read. Remember this is a ‘ghost story’ after all.

The novel’s grimmest moments come, perhaps, at the conclusion of the Third Stave, as the first chimes of midnight have begun to toll and the Ghost of Christmas Present is about depart.

“"Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask," said Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit's robe, "but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw?"
"It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it," was the Spirit's sorrowful reply. "Look here."
From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment.
"Oh, Man, look here! Look, look, down here!" exclaimed the Ghost.
They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.
Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.
"Spirit, are they yours?" Scrooge could say no more.
"They are Man's," said the Spirit, looking down upon them. "And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!" cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. "Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end."

An article posted on Shimmerzine recently talked, amongst other things, about the importance of a cracking, attention-grabbing first line; something that A Christmas Carol has by the bucketful. Striking a particularly spooky note, which sets up the mood of the novel beautifully.

“Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge's name was good upon 'Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.”

Dickens’ classic has been adapted for stage dozens of times over the years (including my own version that is currently running in the US in three separate productions) and, inevitably, has seen many film and TV versions. Some of the best being:

- Old Scrooge (Film - 1913)
- Scrooge (Film - 1951)
- Scrooge (BBC Radio - 1951)
- A Christmas Carol (BBC Radio - 1953)
- A Christmas Carol (Richard Williams short animated - 1971)
- A Christmas Carol (BBC TV - 1977)
- Mickey’s Christmas Carol (Disney animated - 1983)
- A Christmas Carol (Film - 1984)
- The Muppet Christmas Carol (Film - 1992)

If you haven’t read the novel yet (maybe you’ve been put off reading it because you’ve seen so many adaptations) I strongly advise that you get your hands on a copy. You don’t *have* to read it at Christmas (it’s such a powerfully accessible novel it can be read any time of the year) but it’s definitely more of a potent read during the festive period. So, next time you’re “keeping Christmas in your own way” try keeping it with a copy of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol close at hand.

And that brings an end to my Christmas Advent Blog Countdown. All that remains to say is may your have a very Merry Christmas, whatever personal beliefs you may have, and I hope to see you all again on the other side of the festive season…probably a few pounds heavier!

And so, “As Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Everyone!”

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Twenty-Third Day of Advent

- December 23rd -

One of the greatest things about Christmas is, undoubtedly, the classic animated adaptation of Raymond Briggs’ timeless illustrated book The Snowman.

It’s been shown every single year at Christmastime since it’s original broadcast on Channel 4 back in 1982, and has embedded itself into the modern Christmas culture here in Great Britain. In fact, in a recent list compiled by UKTV G.O.L.D it was voted the 4th Greatest TV Christmas Moment of all time.

Christmas without The Snowman is unthinkable. For me it is the second greatest piece of festive film/TV/literature ever created.

There was always a place for this slice of animated magic in our family Christmas celebrations - usually just after all sitting down to Christmas dinner; the washing up done and all the plates of left-over food sitting in the fridge covered in layers of cling film.

Now, nicely full, with a glass of something appropriate in one hand, and the obligatory ill-fitting paper hat cocked jauntily on the top of our heads, the family would all be sitting down to watch Raymond Briggs’ greatest contribution to Christmas.

It’s difficult to describe what this 26 minute animated short really means. I was 9 years old when it was first shown, and I’m 37 now. It’s been in my life so long now that it’s impossible to recall it ever not being there!

Over the years it’s become a mandatory part of my Christmas celebrations (usually around 3.30pm), along with Briggs’ companion piece Father Christmas, which appeared 9 years later.

For a while Father Christmas was shown on the morning of Christmas Eve, while The Snowman continued to occupy the coveted Christmas Day slot. But now, somewhat frustratingly, things have been shifted around, with The Snowman being shown on Christmas Eve for the past 3 years, and Father Christmas being dropped from the schedules altogether.

So far The Snowman has had three short pre-title introduction films; the original Raymond Briggs intro from 1982, the alternate David Bowie version originally created for transmission in the US from 1983 and 20th anniversary Father Christmas introduction voiced by Mel Smith, still used to this day.

The Snowman intro from 1983

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Twenty-Second Day of Advent

- December 22nd -

Five things that people say about Christmas that I really hate…

Christmas isn’t the same anymore - What they really mean is that they’ve become so cynical and joyless that they find it extremely difficult to have fun anymore, and blaming Christmas is much easier than actually having to face their own shortcomings.

Christmas is too commercial nowadays - What utter nonsense. How can the way you choose to celebrate a holiday be *too* anything, unless you want it to be? What they’re doing out there in the high street has absolutely no bearing (or shouldn’t have any bearing) on what’s going on inside your own home come the 25th of December. For heaven’s sake you have a mind inside your head, and your own free will; if you don’t like how the big chain stores are marketing their own particular brand of the festive season then ignore it. Walk on by. If you don’t like all the Christmas adverts on television, watch the two BBC channels, or switch off.

Christmas is only really for the kids - From where I’m sitting Christmas is about many things; meeting up with friends for drinks, having family round, eating until you’re fit to bursting, exchanging and receiving presents, watching Christmas telly, throwing huge parties - the list is practically endless and by no means ‘just for kids’. I mean, apart from the presents, the Father Christmas myth and the being off school for a couple of weeks, Christmas very definitely isn’t ‘just for kids’. Again, it’s linked to certain adults inability (or rather a feeling of acute self-consciousness) when it comes to actually having some fun or not taking things so damned seriously for a few days.

I don’t enjoy Christmas because I can’t do what I want to - Again, utter nonsense. A lot of people feel like they’re ‘trapped’ into set patterns or ‘traditions’ when it comes to Christmas (seeing friends and family, having to cook all the food and wash up afterwards, etc), but this just isn’t so. I’m a great believer in Dickens’ sentiment about ‘keeping Christmas in your own way’. Do the things that will make you happy at Christmas, rather than what you think will make other people happy. If you don’t want people around on Christmas Day, then tell them so. In most cases they’ll actually be fine with it! If you don’t want to cook, then buy in ready made food - or prepare the food in the days running up to Christmas. You’ll be surprised at how many other people will be happy to break their traditions too.

Christmas has lost its meaning now, its only about the shops making a profit - Reality check for you…it has *always* been about making profit, even a hundred years ago! But even if it is, what difference does it make? As I said above, what they’re doing out there on the high street doesn’t *have* to effect your own Christmas. OK, so a lot of parents feel pressured into buying lots of big expensive toys for their children but this isn’t the fault of the retailers, but more a problem with society. Turning our frustrations upon the shops because we feel compelled to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ is a waste of both time and effort. Again it’s a case of certain individuals blaming innocent parties in order to ignore our own shortcomings.

Here endeth the Christmas rant.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Twenty-First Day of Advent

- December 21st -
Today is important for three reasons.

One, it is the Winter Solstice, the point when the Earth’s axial tilt is furthest away from the sun and, more importantly, is the first day of Winter.

Two, it is National Short Story Day, a UK-wide celebration of prose in its shortest form.

Three, today sees the release of Dark Fiction’s wintry short fiction anthology Twelve Days; a wonderful little collection designed to celebrate both of the above events as well as taking full advantage of Christmas being only four short days away.

As has already been mentioned elsewhere on this blog, the writers were asked to take one of the lines from the tradition Christmas song The Twelve Days of Christmas as the starting point for their piece of short fiction, with the proviso that the story have a ‘ghostly theme’.

For my story, The Wintermachine (a Steampunk tale set in an alternate 1940 blitz-torn London), I took the line ‘Nine Ladies Dancing’ as the springboard for a tale of an ancient stone circle that is much more than it seems. The stone circle is, partly, based upon the large blocks of stone that encompass the beautiful village of Avebury in Wiltshire, a place where I love to visit at least once a year.

I’m thrilled to be a part of this collection, which also features such superb writers as Jennifer Williams and Allison Littlewood. There’s nothing quite like a nice chilling story for Christmas and there’s twelve absolute crackers in this collection. So close the curtains, turn up the fire, curl up in your favourite chair with the lights down low, and enjoy 76 minutes of spooky fiction from some very talented authors.

Twelve Days is currently available as an audiobook to download for free either on iTunes or at Dark Fiction’s website :

It will be available soon as an eBook.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Twentieth Day of Advent

- December 20th -

The Doctor Who Christmas Special is the new Morecambe & Wise Christmas extravaganza, or The Two Ronnie’s Christmas Show.

Every Christmas Day since 2005 it’s the show that everyone clears the decks for in order to sit down and watch it as a family.

Of course, the big difference between Doctor Who and those two programmes from yesteryear is the viewing figures.

While Doctor Who (quite rightly) pulls in an average of 12.5 million viewers at Christmas this is nothing compared to the 20+ million that Messrs Corbett and Barker, or Eric & Ernie were commanding some twenty years ago.

And yet, around 13 million is still a very respectable figure, when you take into account the sudden increase in terrestrial and digital channels that have become available to us over those past two decades.

For, what is a science fiction show (a genre that is not universally loved, even looked down on in many literary circles) that’s a very healthy figure indeed. Add to that, the fact that Doctor Who has been the second most watched programme for the Christmas week for three years in a row (beaten only by one-off specials that aren’t on during the rest of the year, like Wallace & Gromit or The Royle Family.)

Impressive, no?

Yes! Damned impressive. And, what’s more, it has become a Christmas tradition. So much so, that the Eastenders Christmas episode incorporated an entire family celebration stopping in order to sit down and watch the Doctor Who Christmas special, something that only really happens in programmes for the Queen’s speech!

Doctor Who is now as festive and seasonal as kissing under the mistletoe or playing charades. And I’m pretty sure, in twenty years from now, they’ll be nostalgic ‘top 50’ programmes being broadcast at Christmas that’ll include Doctor Who as one of those considered most Christmassy.

Right Behind Morecambe & Wise, The Two Ronnies, Only Fools and Horses and Her Madge’s Commonwealth Address!

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Nineteenth Day of Advent

- December 19th -

We had a routine in our house at Christmas, which ran over the three festive days.

Christmas Eve would usually be spent waiting for my Dad to come home early from work while we helped my Mum with the last bit of preparation for the following day (baking mince pies, getting the vegetables peeled and chopped, things like that). After my Dad got home we’d all go upstairs and get ourselves washed and changed and then we’d meet up with relatives at one restaurant or another for a three course Christmas meal.

I used to adore those times, sitting in a lovely restaurant, bedecked with wonderful trees and garlands, listening to the Christmas music being piped in through the speakers, with everyone around me just enjoying deliciously cooked food and the joys of the festive season.

It’s a tradition I still keep up today, with my fiancée, and various friends and family - though very rarely on Christmas Eve now, usually around the 22nd or so.

Christmas Day would see my brother, my sister and myself scurrying downstairs at the crack of dawn, and into the living room to find three huge piles of presents sitting on the living room floor. We would dart over, checking the tags on each pile, until we found the pile which was ours, and then begin tearing into them.

I remember quite vividly the year I got a bike as my big present (around 1982). It was a Raleigh ‘Strika’. Silver, it was, with black grips on the handlebars, a guard along it's chain and the name written along its crossbar in exciting colours. It didn’t have a kick-stand on it though, like my brothers (my brother’s was a big boy bike, a Grifter), but that was OK, because my Dad fitted one a few months later, so I could stand it up when I got off it, and didn’t have to lie it on the floor (which I hated).

I was so excited to have that Strika and just wanted to get out there and ride it all day long. But it had been snowing all night and now it was white over outside so I had to wait.

That was the first time I have experienced a White Christmas in my whole life - the second time was last year!

Around lunchtime, after we’d had a good play with our presents we’d go off to my Nanna and Grandad’s where there’d be lots more family members waiting, and more presents, and a lovely Christmas dinner.

Boxing Day would mean a trip to my Aunty Marge and Uncle Jack’s (regular readers of my blog will remember that they are the ones who had the little caravan in Bridlington that was full of books, every shelf and surface and nook and cranny, filled with books! - see entry June 23rd for that story -) where we’d spend the day with relatives we hadn’t seen since last Boxing Day, and we’d watch the big film on the television and play parlour games and have a delicious buffet.

I still remember the Christmas when my Mum told us that they’d decided we wouldn’t be doing this any more. That they wanted a quite Christmas instead, without the hassle of driving out to see family and spending Christmas away from the home.

It was never the same again. But now I’m grown up and planning my own Christmases I always make sure that we have a few days away with the family. One year we spend Boxing Day with my fiancée’s family and New Year with mine, the next year it’s the other way around.

That’s how I grew up with Christmas, and that’s how it should be.

A Raleigh 'Strika' like the one I had for Christmas 1982


Saturday, 18 December 2010

Eighteenth Day of Advent

- December 18th -

Todays Advent blog post is by Angry Robot editor and fellow co-editor on the forthcoming short fiction anthology 'Voices From The Past' Lee Harris, recalling his childhood Christmases back in his Welsh homeland.

I remember Christmases as a child quite vividly. I have a brother and sister, and when we were allowed into our front living room, we would find our presents in piles on the furniture. My brother's would be on one armchair, my sister's on another. As I was the youngest, mine tended to take up more space, and so the sofa was where I'd find mine. Quite right, too.
I can remember one year, waking up mere hours after going to bed, when the rest of the family were still downstairs watching late night TV. My cries of "Has he been, yet?" answered with cries of "Not yet - go back to bed."

On Christmas morning we weren't allowed downstairs on our own - we had to wait until the whole family was up and ready to descend. One time I woke particularly early - probably 5 or 6am - and snuck down to the living room. The excitement was too much and I couldn't wait, so I carefully opened every one of my presents - slowly peeling back enough sticky tape so I could glance inside, and then reseal, before heading back upstairs. When I came down later, with everyone else, I had to feign surprise (though the delight was still genuine). I was always a performer, even at an early age - it was no surprise that I eventually became an actor.

I never received anything from Father Christmas - all my gifts were from family. I suppose I saw Father Christmas (always this, never Santa) as more of a delivery man, than someone who gave gifts. Every year I'd receive a selection box and a £10 note from Aunty Pat and Uncle Tommy, and every year I'd be astonished that they gave it again - over 30 years ago, £10 for a young boy was a lot of money! (Hell - I wouldn't turn my nose up at it, even now!)

Most of my memories as a young child are from family holidays, birthdays and Christmas, but it's the Christmas ones that really stick.

I'm a Dad, now, and I probably enjoy Christmas more than ever. It's still a time for surprise and delight, but watching my 6 yr-old and 3 yr-old as they unwrap their gifts, is worth more than a hundred selection boxes - with or without the enclosed £10!

And I hope that when they're grown up, they'll look back on their Christmas memories with as much fondness.

Merry Christmas, everyone. And for those of you who don't celebrate this particular holiday, I hope you'll have just as pleasant a time.

A big thank you to Lee for taking time out on a very dull train journey to write this for me.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Seventeenth Day of Advent

- December 17th -

Today's Advent blog is all about those golden Aussie Christmases of yesteryear by award-winning novelist Kaaron Warren, plus a special guest appearance from her Mum!

My childhood memories of Christmas revolve around lunch at my grandmother’s house. She had a tiny place, so the backyard was the only option when all the cousins showed up. She had a lot of old stuff back there. It was a place full of adventure. A huge wagon wheel that we climbed on till it rotted. A meat safe, that no longer held meat but still had the scent of old lamb. And a fantastic shed, full of junk and treasures and my grandfather’s secret part, where the men went to drink his homemade rocket juice. My dad told me not long ago this was cheap port mixed with cheap brandy. The men would be summoned up the back there during the day. There was an old mat on the floor, and an old dog, and my old granddad. The times I snuck around to see what they were doing (all the cousins following along) you could see the heat haze shimmering out of the door.

We always got the same gift from my grandparents. A little something, because there were ten of us. The one I remember best was the little skeleton chomping teeth. Those ones you wind up and chomp chomp chomp, chomp chomp until the adults screamed with irritation. Or it could have been the rocket juice setting them off.

For us, Aussie Christmas was about the dessert. Pavlova, plum pudding with coins stuck in, lots of lollies, soft drink; it was a sugar frenzy, and my cousins and I would often end up running around the shed at the back, shouting. We’d be in the swimmers we’d all been given by Santa Claus (Aussie kids get new swimmers every year) , and someone would set off the sprinkler to cool us all off. Then we’d be soggy, and muddy, and full of sugar, and we’d show off our Christmas presents. There’d be tears at hometime, because we didn’t want it to be over. I never wanted the day to end; I still remember how sad I felt when the day cooled, because it meant it was almost over.

This is Kaaron’s mum. Just a little adjustment to the rocket juice recipe. Not only brandy and port, but peppermint essence was an essential ingredient and a nice little bottle of cheapish red wine.

*Thanks to Kaaron and her Mum for taking the time to write this fab blog post

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Sixteenth Day of Advent

- December 16th -

So far, over the course of these Advent blogs, I’ve talked a lot about my family Christmases as I grew up in the Midlands, and all the things associated with Christmas-time that have meant a lot to me.

But what about other people?

I’m always fascinated by the experiences and memories of other people when it comes to subjects close to my heart; how they differ from my own, or even how closely they mirror them.

So, I’ve asked a few of my friends to write a little about some of their own Christmases as a child, and I will be posting the results intermittently on here between now and Christmas Eve.

First up is author and scriptwriter Paul Magrs on the delights of a certain well stocked high street shop around the festive time.

Smiths at Christmas
Christmas meant book vouchers and various items that needed to be taken back to M+S to be exchanged whether for reasons of size or taste. While Mam queued in Marksies there was WH Smiths in Darlington to explore and ransack. Smiths in the 80s was all bright citrus orange in decor, somehow magical with newsprint and the scent of shiny magazines and it was all quite different to how it is now. It had a large, lavish record department with vinyl in polythene covers, a vast selection of heart-stoppingly delectable, pristine stationery, drawing and writing books and, at the top of a wide staircase which I always for some reason had to run up – it had a vast book section.

Book vouchers were always one of the best kinds of presents because they represented not just choosing just what you wanted, but they somehow stood for time. A whole wodge of unspent, luxurious, book-wallowing time somehow stored up within the card and inside the monopoly-type money of the foily, swirly, brightly-coloured voucher itself.

The best thing I remember finding in Smiths immediately after Christmas – when we’d dash out for shopping because we’d ran out of milk and bread and were going stir crazy, all of us cooped up in the house – was a set of ‘Children’s Classics’ paperbacks from America. They came in Selection Box type package, with crinkly cellophane windows – and there were six paperback classics – Alice, Oz, Journey to the Centre of the World, the Prince and the Pauper, A Christmas Carol, Robin Hood… With tiny print and pulpy paper, with lurid painted covers. Airmont, the publisher was, and the whole set cost, I think £1.99 and when I was nine it seemed like the best bargain ever. I particularly liked the list in the back of all the classics in the world: all mine to make my way through...

This point in time was also about Annuals reduced to half price. I still buy the Beano Annual when it comes down in price. I liked it best when it was printed on really thick paper, in black and white, pink and red. The Beezer was always a favourite too, and Cheeky – which is a comic no one but I seems to remember.

From somewhere on the internet I’ve nicked someone’s snap of a crumpled paper bag from Smiths. I hope they don’t mind. But it’s ridiculous how nostalgic I can feel about an old paper bag!

Thanks to Paul Magrs for taking the time to write this lovely post!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Fifteenth Day of Advent

- December 15th -

It's always slightly bizarre when something you love, which has absolutely nothing to do with the festive season, suddenly and inexplicably releases a Christmas collection, edition or special.

For example, it’s no secret that I am rather partial to a certain British science fiction serial that’s been running, off and on, for nearly 50 years, and over the years several publishing houses have released new adventures in book form.

But in December 2008, Big Finish released one of their Short Trips anthologies which took as it’s theme ‘Christmas Around The World’.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a wonderful little collection with some great stories by authors such as James Moran, Andrew Cartmel, Kate Orman, Jason Arnopp, Simon Guerrier and Rebecca Levene, but as themes for Doctor Who short stories go, it’s as way out and unexpected as ‘Short Trips: The Best Walks Around Britain’*.

Similarly, in the late 80s, groups such as New Kids on the Block were releasing their own Christmas themed album (alarmingly recorded in just a single day in a hotel room - I kid you not!), while the ZX Spectrum offered games such as ‘Merry Xmas Santa‘, which involved the player guiding Santa Claus successfully over a series of snow covered roof-tops, dodging snowballs, in order to deliver his presents safely down chimneys.

Way back in the 1960s, groovy funky spy show The Avengers offered up their one and only foray into the Christmas market with the suitably seasonal episode ‘Too Many Christmas Trees’. It’s actually a wonderful little episode, which deals with telepathy, mind control and a Christmas party that takes place in the house of a man obsessed by the works of Charles Dickens, but could so easily have fallen into the ‘curiosity from the past’ category.

It’s a fine line that some Christmas ‘editions’ tread, wavering dangerously between ‘wonderfully festive little gem’ and ‘odd bit of Christmas tat’. As with many things, it really depends upon whether they have a genuinely interesting and relevant seasonal story to tell, or they’re just jumping on the Christmas bandwagon in order to make a quick buck.

Let’s hope that most of us are still smart enough to tell the difference.

* Thankfully this anthology does not exist

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Fourteenth Day of Advent

- December 14th -

Great Christmas films, I mean truly great Christmas films, can be counted on the fingers of one hand.

We all have our favourites, the ones that warm the cockles of our hearts, and have been warming them for many a Christmastide. The ones that we love to watch on a lazy Sunday afternoon on the run-up to the festive time, or on a cold Boxing Day night, if there’s nothing else on.

But the ones we hold dear to our hearts aren’t necessarily the ones that are critical or even commercial successes - in fact, we are probably the only ones that actually like them, truth be told. Every one else thinks they’re rubbish!

My mother, for example, loves the film Scrooged - that odd, Bill Murray vehicle that purports to be a modern retelling of A Christmas Carol. Personally, I can’t really stand it. But I love the fact that my mother likes it so much. It’s something that she adores watching every Christmas - and coming from someone who really detests Christmas, that’s saying something.

It’s A Wonderful Life is another favourite. A film that just about everyone loves.

I wouldn’t say I ‘love’ it (it’s a great film, don’t get me wrong) it’s just always sat a little uneasily with me - in the Christmas film stakes, that is. For a film that is held up as the ‘Ultimate Christmas Film’ there’s surprising little of any actual Christmassyness in it. Only about a third of the film is actually set at Christmas.

Personally, my festive viewing usually comprises of such seasonal cheer as Scrooge (the Alastair Sim version), National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Miracle on 34th Street (the 1947 version) and a certain Muppet retelling of a Charles Dickens classic (hey, it’s wonderful, and you know it!!)

And that’s before we even get to the ‘non-Christmassy’ Christmas films - The Man Who Would Be King, The Great Escape, Great Expectations (David Lean version) or anything by the Hammer Films or the Carry On team!

Yes, you can count the number of truly great Christmas films on the fingers of one hand, but the Christmas films we love, that we hold dear, and that warm our cockles each and every year since we were young…there are loads of ‘em.

And we should be thankful for it!

Monday, 13 December 2010

Thirteenth Day of Advent

- December 13th -

There has been much puzzlement and confusion over the years when we come to sing that well known, and greatly loved, Christmas ditty: The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Recently, I was asked by those lovely, fluffy folk from Dark Fiction Magazine to take one of the ‘Days’ from this song as the starting point for my short fiction piece ‘The Wintermachine’ - which will be appearing in their forthcoming short story anthology ‘Twelve Days’, published on the 21st December as an eBook and audio book.

I’m grateful that they supplied the correct twelve days as they appear in the song because, I’m ashamed to admit, I would never have been able to tell you in what order they were supposed to come.

But, then I thought…how many of us actually would?

Come on, be honest, without hopping onto Google and taking a crafty peak, could you actually name all the twelve days of Christmas in order without making a mistake?

Go on, try it.

We’ll wait for you…

You see. It’s bloody difficult isn’t it. Most of us can get to ‘Five Gold Rings’ and then it all starts to go a bit wonky.

Surprising really as the song is such a popular one at Christmas time. Particularly amongst those who get a bit Brahms & Lizst at the work’s Christmas do (for more on the office party, see the entry for Eighth Day of Advent), and always sing the Five Gold Rings part at an annoying volume!

So, for all those who had trouble naming them all in order earlier (hey, there’s no embarrassment in not knowing, I was one of you too, until a few weeks ago!) here is the full list of the Twelve Days of Christmas, in order.
All together now; one, two, a one two three four…

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...
A Partridge in a Pear Tree.
Two Turtle Doves
Three French Hens
Four Colly Birds
Five Gold Rings
Six Geese-a-Laying
Seven Swans-a-Swimming
Eight Maids-a-Milking
Nine Ladies Dancing
Ten Lords-a-Leaping
Eleven Pipers Piping
Twelve Drummers Drumming

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Twelfth Day of Advent

- December 12th -

When I was a nipper in the late 70s/early 80s everyone had their tellys tuned into The Two Ronnies Christmas Show on either Christmas Day or Boxing Day. No question. It was the law. Or something.

You have to remember that if you missed a programme back then, you damn well missed it. It might be repeated, once the following year, if you were lucky. But if not then, tough. You missed it.

I know this is a rather difficult concept for us to get our heads around nowadays - in a time of iPlayers, repeats on Digital channels, and a full DVD release mere weeks after it’s broadcast - but back then British TV was much more ephemeral - transmitted once, perhaps twice, then over and done with, gone!

Like that other classic double act, Morecambe & Wise, The Two Ronnies was mandatory, festive television viewing, often commanding viewing figures of over 20 million people.

The Two Ronnies ran for 16 years - 1971-87 - and, although all but one of those years would see a full series broadcast, it was always to the Christmas Special that both critic and viewing attention alike would be focused.

The flagship of the Christmas schedules (much the same way as Doctor Who is currently) all the stops would be pulled out for the making and screening of this one-off bonanza - often with a greatly increased budget that would finance a somewhat cinematic-looking short film, that would appear near the end of the episode.

I used to love watching these specials when I was a kid, and do you know what, I still do!

Time has not diminished the impact of The Two Ronnies, either as a comedy double act or as a wonderfully entertaining, comedy sketch show. And you can still find it tucked in the Christmas schedules somewhere, even in this day and age - which I think says something about the timeless appeal and affection the British public have for these masters of comedy.

And this year is no exception, with BBC2 holding a Two Ronnies evening on December 23rd, featuring their Christmas Show from 1982, along with various documentaries and never-before-seen footage of these masters at work!

Proving that The Two Ronnies are an essential part of Christmas telly now as they ever were.

The Two Ronnies - Christmas Show

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Eleventh Day of Advent

- December 11th -

A friend of mine introduced me to Norwegian novelist Jostein Gaarder’s wonderful book The Christmas Mystery about ten years ago.

As each chapter of the book is a Day of Advent, my friend would traditionally read the book a chapter a night before going to sleep, allowing the story to unfold piece by mysterious piece throughout the course of almost a month.

Naturally, I was intrigued by what my friend told me about this book so, within a matter of days, I had popped down to my local Waterstones bookshop and purchased myself a copy of Gaarder’s novel for myself.

It was late November as I walked back from the bookshop, and as the novel begins on November 30th I decided to follow my friend’s example and read it one chapter a night, finishing up the book on Christmas Eve.

Joachim, a young boy, buys an advent calendar that turns out to contain something far more special than pieces of festive shaped chocolate. For behind each tiny door Joachim finds a piece of paper that tells the story of Elisabet Hansen, a girl who chases a toy lamb out of department store and across the country, encountering on her way, an angel, a cherub, a couple of shepherds and a King of the Orient!

The Christmas Mystery is such a magical little story, told through the eyes of a young boy, who slowly becomes enthralled by the mysterious Elisabet’s fantastic story.

Sadly, whenever I have re-read this book I have never gotten around to reading it one day at a time over the Advent period again, but instead find myself cramming in several chapters at a time to get it finished before Christmas.

I urge anyone who hasn’t read this marvellous book to do so, but preferably at Christmas Time, and one chapter a day starting from November 30th. And, like Joachim, a wonderful little Christmas mystery will unfold before your eyes.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Tenth Day of Advent

- December 10th -

Sadly I didn’t discover Clement Clarke Moore’s wonderful Christmas poem The Night Before Christmas (or A Visit From St. Nicholas) until I was in my twenties.

I bought an illustrated copy from a local bookshop while I was at university, and, after reading it for the first time that Christmas Eve, immediately wished I’d had this read to me as a child. It’s such a beautiful little poem, set at midnight on Christmas Eve, as Jolly Old St. Nicholas drops in on a quite little suburban house in America, to leave presents under the tree for the family.

Moore’s poem is, perhaps, the single most important contributor to the Christmas myth since the story of the Nativity. It is here that we get our first detailed description of Father Christmas, a description that has become the blue print for how we imagine the character to this day.

First published in 1823, the author actually borrowed the conception of Father Christmas from fellow writer and good friend Washington Irving (author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow) yet Moore stamped his own mark upon the legendary character by having him deliver his presents to the family on Christmas Eve, rather than Christmas Day, as was traditional up to that point.

The Night Before Christmas is a poem that demands to be read aloud; in the evening, in front of a roaring fire, preferably, while the snow falls gently outside and all the family gather around you on the sofa.

Like Charles Dickens’ novel A Christmas Carol, I read this every Christmas Eve, either to myself, or aloud to whoever wants to hear it. One day I hope to read it to my own children, preferably in front of that roaring fire.

There’s only two things that are more Christmassy than Moore’s poem…but to find out what those are you’ll have to wait and see.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Ninth Day of Advent

- December 9th -
Today's Christmas moment comes from the most unlikely source; Monty Python's Meaning of Life. A film that has virtually nothing to do with the festive season, yet has one of the greatest Christmas song and dance routines you'll ever see.
Famously a highly controversial film (still banned in countries like Malaysia, Bhutan and, for many years, Ireland and New Zeland) Meaning of Life is usually most Monty Python fan's least favourite film, but I have to admit it's probably my favourite of the three (or four, if you want to count And Now For Something Completely Different).
One of it's greatest moments is right at the end when, at the end of the penultimate sketch, all the characters die and we follow them up to Heaven - only to find out that it's Christmas (but then, it's Christmas every day in Heaven).
All the recognisable tropes are present in the song and dance; the Nativity, angels, people in Father Christmas outfits, consumerism and...erm...Quasimodo.
Christmas In Heaven - Monty Python's Meaning Of Life

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Eighth Day of Advent

- December 8th -

The work’s Christmas party. Does anyone actually enjoy them?

There’s an age old myth - usually perpetuated by early 80s sitcoms, or aging uncles - that the work’s Christmas party is a hotbed of sin, vice and naughty goings on…usually in the office supply cupboard.

But let’s be honest here; hands up who’s actually gotten up to anything they shouldn’t at a work’s festive do?

Most of the parties I’ve been to that involve work colleagues usually involve a sit down meal, some cheerful banter, followed by a few drinks at a nearby boozer, then home to the missus.

Oh yeah, and we’re all supposed to photocopy our arses at these shindigs, and all. I mean, if that’s what everyone really did at the office party then no one would have any time for the actual drinking and debauchery bit, they’d be too busy joining a very long queue that stretched from the fire exit all the way up to the photocopier!

Let’s face it, it’s to the Christmas specials of Terry & June, The Two Ronnies and On the Buses that we must look, if we want to see where these mythical images of randy males chasing a female work colleague that they’ve fancied for ages down the corridor with a sprig of mistletoe really started.

For most of us, a work’s knees-up is a slightly disappointing and tedious affair, usually involving soggy sausage rolls and trying to avoid talking to that bloke from accounts who you don’t really like but can’t quite say why.

If only they were more like the ones we see on Terry & June; wouldn’t life be much more exciting! Staggering out of the supplies cupboard with that blonde from reception, your paper hat all crooked, your tie slightly undone and red lipstick marks all over your cheeks. Shouting “Whay hey!” as you goose that woman from the typing pool on your way to the buffet.

It’d be great. It really would. But sadly it’s just not real. Now relegated (since the sad death of proper sitcoms) to the pages of Viz, who use it in a purely ironic way.

If anyone actually goes to those sorts of parties I’d love an invite. I’ve got my own paper hat and tie, and have been known, on the odd occasion, to shout “Whay hey!” in an annoyingly loud and chauvinistic way.

And I’ve seen all the Christmas episodes of Terry & June, The Two Ronnies and On the Buses, so, you see, I am qualified!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Seventh Day of Advent

- December 7th -

One of the greatest contributions that Doctor Who has made to the festive season is, without doubt, the wonderful Murray Gold-penned ‘Song For Ten’.

In the commentary to The Christmas Invasion, writer Russell T. Davies states that his brief to Murray Gold was that he wanted something that sounded as though it belonged on Phil Spector’s Christmas album.
It’s placement in the actual episode is spot on, with the main thrust of the story neatly wrapped up and the commencement of Christmas festivities in the Tyler household seriously getting into full swing.

The Tenth Doctor is ’born’ to this track; to the song’s opening strains he chooses his outfit in the TARDIS wardrobe, and it’s here that both Rose Tyler and the audience really see this new incarnation for the first time.

It’s a wonderfully magical moment, and inter-cut with the characters sitting down to Christmas dinner, pulling crackers, wearing paper hats, and the like, it’s the first truly Christmassy moment in Doctor Who since The Daleks’ Masterplan episode The Feast of Steven back in 1965.

Without doubt one of the main contenders for Greatest Moment of all time in Doctor Who along with Most Christmassy Moment in Doctor Who, to boot.

Should be compulsive viewing in the run-up to Christmas…not just that bit, but the whole episode!
There are two version of this song - one is the original broadcast version (the best version in my opinion), the other is the longer album version, rerecorded with vocals by The Divine Comedy's Neil Hannon.
Song For Ten - Original Broadcast Version

Monday, 6 December 2010

Sixth Day of Advent

- December 6th -

For me the Christmas of 1991 was one tinged with sadness. Not because of some family tragedy or being stuck away from home all alone unable to get back to the warm bosom of my loved ones, but because this was the first Christmas that we didn’t have to buy both the Radio Times and the TV Times together.

Thanks to the deregulation of television listings the Radio Times was now allowed to carry listing for ITV and Channel 4, and TV Times was allowed to include BBC 1 and 2’s television scheduling.

It was so disappointing. Like tearing off a little strip of my own personal traditional Christmas celebrations, depriving me of something I’d loved and cherished since I was knee-high to a grasshopper.

Yes, it’s silly - I’m well aware of that, thank you - but it was something I truly enjoyed…spreading open two bumper Christmas issues of TV listing magazines and going through them both with a luminous marker-pen, circling all the wonderful Christmas telly I intended to watch.

I know I still can, and do (my magazine of choice is the Radio Times, much classier than the TV Times, whose garish pages are set out like a cheap 30p listings mag) but even after 19 years it still seems wrong to have only one TV listings magazine in the house at Christmas. Even now it feels like there’s still a huge TV Times-shaped hole on the coffee table for the entirety of that festive fortnight.

Although Radio Times continues to have the more traditional, elegant Christmas covers (except for some reason this years has Wallace & Gromit on again, despite there being no new episode on and they were on the cover just two Christmases ago) I still remember some of the TV Times covers of old with great fondness; the Minder cover from 1988 with Arthur and Terry in Father Christmas outfit, Bet Lynch and Hilda Ogden in a tinsel adorned Rovers Return from 1987, even that odd one that had Superman, Russ Abbott, the Muppets and David Frost all peering out of the door of a cottage onto a snow scene.

Even though I still look forward to the time every year when the bumper two-week Christmas issue of the Radio Times is released, and I can sit down on the settee by the Christmas tree, slowly making may way through the magazine towards the 25th of December, marking off all the festive programmes I’m intending to watch or record, I always spare a thought for when it used to be the three of us, and all the fun we used to have together.

But it’s only the two of us now, and despite all the fun and excitement the Radio Times gives me every Christmas, I’ll always miss the TV Times.

And, you know what…I think I always will.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Fifth Day of Advent

- December 5th -

When I was a little kiddie, The Christmas Raccoons cartoon was always on, every single year, without fail.

In fact, back in the early 80s The Christmas Raccoons was synonymous with Christmas every bit as much as the Queen’s speech, The Snowman or The Wizard of Oz.

The odd thing was that although this was the first of four specials, which would later spin off into a 60 episode series that ran from 1985-92, I never actually saw any episode other than this Christmas special. Not one.

The cartoon itself is a very strange thing to behold, much like many of the speedily produced cartoon shows to emerge from Canada and the U.S between 1960-90s. I haven’t sat down and watched this cartoon properly in such a long time, but the bits I do see from time to time have that sinister, slightly off-kilter animation and somewhat creepy voice characterisations - much like watching episodes of The Flintstones nowadays. There’s something quite ‘wrong’ about them, something that you can‘t quite put your finger on.

The story takes place in Evergreen Forest, a place that is located “slightly a ways North”, and concerns the cruel business tactics of lumber tycoon Cyril Sneer and his son Cedric - strange, bent-nosed creatures - who are terrorising the forest where the raccoons of the title live, leaving them cold and homeless in the run-up to Christmas. Teaming up with two children and the animals of the woods, they set about trying to save their forest from total destruction at the hands of Sneer’s lumber company.

I won’t lie to you, I used to love this as a kid, and Christmas wasn’t Christmas until it’d been shown on ITV. Nowadays, I find it just plain freaky, and much of the charm that it had when I was a child is lost on me now.

Perhpas not unsurprisingly, the cartoon itself has vanished into relative obscurity, having not been broadcast on terrestrial television for a good twenty years. It’s probably for the best, however, as it isn’t really the classic cartoon that I seemed to remember it being from my childhood. Which is a pity, I suppose.

And I still don’t know what animals Cyril Sneer and his son Cedric are supposed to be. If anyone happens to know could they let me know, please. Cheers.
The Christmas Raccoons - 1980

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Fourth Day of Advent

- December 4th -

Today’s Advent blog is a little later than usual, but for a very good reason. You see, today I want to talk briefly about Christmas trees. The reason being that my tree was delivered today and I’ve been spending the most part of today decorating it, as well as putting up the rest of the Christmas decorations around the house.

It’s hard to believe that the tradition of decorating a tree and displaying it in the home as the centre piece of the Christmas dressings isn’t even two hundred years old yet.

Although the custom can be traced back as far as Estonia in the Fifteenth Century, it took a while to catch on in other parts of the world. By the early 1700s it had spread across Central Europe until, by the early Nineteenth Century, had made it as far a field as Russia and Canada.

It’s a well known fact that the Christmas tree really took off with the British public after Queen Victoria’s marriage to Prince Albert, but the tradition was actually introduced into Britain nearly half a century earlier by Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, Queen to George III.

When I was a child in the late 70s early 80s I seem to remember that our tree was very much of it’s time. It was quite small, roughly about 3 foot or so, and the branches were made of silver tinsel. We’d sit it on the sideboard where the top of the tree would come to just above our heads. Sounds bad now, I’ll grant you, but I actually used to love that tree as a kid, and the thought of decorating it every Christmas was one of the highlights of the year for me.

As I got older my Mum and Dad bought a bigger one. Still artificial, but this one was six foot tall, and green. It actually looked like a real tree from a distance. This was the mid-to-late 80s, you have to understand, when fake trees that didn’t look like trees at all were out, and fake trees that looked like real trees were in. My Mum would never allow us to have a real tree, would never allow one near the house let alone in it. She hated the thought of the pine needles getting all over the floor. Still does.

Since I’ve been with my fiancée, however, I’ve been introduced to the advantages of having a real tree in the house. They’re so beautiful I’d never go back to fake trees now; not even fake trees that look like real trees from a distance.

A nicely decorated one, with baubles and bows, garlands and lights, look almost Victorian; particularly if you place all your Christmas present around the bottom of the tree, as we do. And you know what, we’ve never had any problems with the pine needles, like my Mum has always feared. As long as you keep the base-stand full of water the pine needles stay where they are.

I’ve told my Mum this, but she still won’t have one in the house. She’s got a fake one that looks real, but it’s only small and sits on the sideboard in the living room. The top of it comes to just above their heads.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Dark Fiction's Twelve Days Anthology

Dark Fiction Magazine have announced today the line up for their forthcoming Twelve Days Anthology, a collection of short spooky tales for Christmas.

My Steampunk short story The Wintermachine will be one of the twelve to feature in the collection, which is set for a Winter Solstice release - December 21st, 2010.

Each short story has taken one of the 'Twelve Days of Christmas' as it's starting point to tell a short tale of spookiness and sinister goings on, all within the Steampunk, Sci-Fi and Horror genres.

The twelve stories are:
It’s Just A Game – Neil Benyon
The Wintermachine – Scott Harrison
True Love – David Hartley
Seven Swans – Chris Lewis
The Fifth Day – Alison Littlewood
Just One Night – Terry Martin
Seven Swans-a-Swimming – Martin McGrath
Five Gold Rings – Peter Morrison
Ten Lords-a-Leaping – Kev Rooney
Milk – Jennifer Williams
Nine Ladies Dancing – Marc Williams
Ten Lords-a-Leaping – Stuart Young

The anthology will be available as an audio collection via iTunes and the Dark Fiction Magazine website, and simultaniously published as a free eBook.

Third Day of Advent

- December 3rd -

You know it really is Christmas when the Christmas idents appear on the telly.

There’s something wonderfully special and a little bit magical about them. It’s almost like the TV channels have put their Christmas decorations up too and are all ready to celebrate Christmas like the rest of us.

There was a time - around the late 70s / early 80s - when a first glimpse of the BBC’s latest Christmas ident was one of the most exciting and much anticipated events for a tiny wee laddy such as myself…that and running into the living room early on Christmas morning to find a huge pile of festively wrapped presents sitting in the middle of the carpet, of course.

Yes, we’ve had some good ‘uns of late, such as the Tenth Doctor and the TARDIS being pulled through the air like a sleigh by reindeer, and Wallace and Gromit out sledging in the snow, but they're not a patch on the ones they had when I was a nipper.

Before the inevitable introduction of computer generated Christmassy idents and continuity links the television stations had to rely on nifty model work standing on gently revolving turntables. Very dated now but it all looked incredibly festive at the time.

The BBC were the best, of course. Mind you, they didn’t have much competition. Back in the 70s and 80s the ITV channel had many more independent broadcasters (many of which either went bust or merged with other companies in the early 90s), and many of them didn’t really bother creating their own Christmas idents.

But even back then the BBC took the trouble to create a separate ident for both BBC1 and BBC2. There was even a time (in the very early 80s) when they would even go so far as to create different ‘versions’ of each ident, to depict the time of day. For example, in the 1980 ident, two versions of the model were presented throughout the day - in the morning a scene showing skaters on a frozen lake in daylight could be seen before each programme, in the evening viewers saw the same scene but under a starlit sky with accompanying ominous snow clouds!

It’s still exciting when the TV channels unveil their new ident each Christmas (although, for some unfathomable reason, BBC1 had the exact same ident for both 2006 and 2007) and it makes Christmas time all the more sparkly and…well, Christmassy…but they’ve never quite topped the success of those old, gently rotating models of the 70s and 80s.

Hopefully, one day, we might go all retro with the Christmas ident, like we do with music and fashion ever damn year, and we’ll once again see the lovely spinney model at Christmas…well, a CGI version of it, at any rate!
BBC Christmas Idents - 1975-89

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Second Day of Advent

- December 2nd -

Thinking about it, it’s probably Christmas music (along with Christmas adverts) being played before December that annoys the general public the most.

You usually can’t move for miserable, moaning old gits in Marks & Spencer’s complaining that “It’s only October and already they’re ramming Christmas down our throats.” *moan moan moan moan*

And breathe…

OK, so let’s not get me onto the subject of people moaning about Christmas or I’ll be writing this thing all day. Trust me.

However, having said this, as long as it’s December, nothing gets people in the Christmas spirit, or in a jocular mood, faster or more efficiently than Christmas music - be it carols, crooners or Wham‘s ‘Last Christmas‘!

Traditionally I start listening to Christmas music while decorating the tree and putting up the Christmas decorations - at this point it’s usually the entirety of the Andy Williams Christmas Album, which, on CD, is a whopping 20 tracks long!
It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year - Andy Williams

I grew up listening to my Dad’s old vinyl copy of this album from his record collection, although this version (the original 1963 release) had only 12 tracks. Back then listening to this album meant that Christmas had officially started, and it was one of the first CDs I bought when I finally moved away from home and started organising my own Christmases.

Oddly, this was the only Christmas album my father owned (he now owns two as I bought him Enya’s brilliant '…And Winter Came' two years ago) so the rest of the Christmas play list was up to me, and over the years I built up a rather respectable library of Christmas CDs.

A Coventry Carol - Choir of St. George's Chapel

As I grew up I started to become increasingly fond of the traditional Christmas carol; not only those well known, yet wonderful, favourites such as We Three Kings, God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen or The First Noel, but others that seldom make it onto commercially popular albums. My favourite of these not-so-well-known carols is The Coventry Carol, which is one of the most beautiful things you will ever hear. I once spent several hours listening to this carol on a continuous loop as I sat writing pages and pages of A Christmas Carol script. Others, such as Masters In This Hall and Love Divine, I was fortunate enough to stumbled across on the same CD of the Choir of St. Gerorge’s Chapel, which is probably the finest carols CD to have in your collection.

The great thing about Christmas music is that there’s so much of it that there’s invariably something for everyone…unless you’re a miserable, moaning old git in Marks & Spencer’s. For the traditionalist there’s carols, for the connoisseur theirs Christmas symphonies for the groovy people there’s the crooners, and for the average Joe Public there’s Christmas Chart music.

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas - Dean Martin
Which is why I’ve chosen four tracks for Day 2 of Advent: one from each of the above three categories and one from the Andy Williams Christmas Album, purely because it’s the best Christmas album ever released!
Another Rock & Roll Christmas - Gary Glitter