A Festive Special - Part 1
Updated: Dec 17, 2020
“Christmas time, mistletoe and wine, children singing Satanic time…”
Wait that’s not it? Anyway hello again! As of writing this blog entry we are fast approaching Christmas. I’m a bit of a big kid really, and really enjoy the festive period. I am currently sat in my in-laws living room, with Carols playing in the background (no Wham for me please), while a Christmas tree sits in the corner with lights twinkling. My wife successfully convinced them to get a big one this year – indeed so big that it didn’t fit in their living room initially. She hasn’t stopped giggling about it. I guess we’re both just overgrown kids in our own way.
Now Christmas this year is going to be different. It will be for most people with Covid-19. The pandemic has stopped me doing my usual Pantomime this year. Normally I find myself incredibly busy rehearsing and then performing. It’s great fun but a lot of work – I haven’t had a Boxing Day off in ages! What will also be different this year is that I am, surprise surprise, up North now, so it will be only the second time I haven’t celebrated with my parents. Every family has its own wonderful/funny/bizarre Christmas traditions and stories. This year I will be experiencing and forming a new set. But I thought I would share some of the Bolitho-Jones family traditions in all their glory. I hope you find them entertaining.
Of course Christmas ain’t Christmas without a bit of baby Jesus (and Santa Claus, fir trees, presents, and Die Hard), and my Mum’s side of the family is Methodist. As such we go to Church, at least on Christmas Eve and Day. The church we used to go to was the sort where they encouraged you to bring along a present and open it amongst the congregation. This has led to some embarrassing experiences such as my dad unwrapping a box of reindeer poo (chocolates) and then having the vicar announce it to the whole church. On another occasion my younger brother brought along his new Buzz Lightyear doll. The vicar was doing a reading, and getting to a dramatic moment when Matthew pressed a button on his talking Buzz. The result was as follows –
“Then the angel Gabriel came down and said---“ “I am Buzz Lightyear, I come in peace.”
Not the worst interruption, kind of fitting too. Of course what is church at Christmas without a Nativity play? One year when I was about 5 my mum wrote and directed it, casting me as a Roman soldier (supposedly a helpful centurion guided the shepherds to Jesus – a far quicker route then the Wisemens’ star). You can see me in the picture below. My sister is standing just behind me, playing Mary – a little bit of nepotism from the director there. There is a particular story from this nativity that my parent’s will never let me forget. As a centurion I had to lead the shepherds around the audience in a square shape. 5 year old me found this route boring and decided to try a figure of 8 by walking down the central aisle. The shepherds didn’t follow and after a few embarrassing moments I did my best to scramble back in front of them again. I was not pleased in the slightest.
Another regular event that we would attend was the children's service, normally on Christmas Eve or at most a few days before. The chairs would be repositioned into a semi-circle and we would be treated to a Christingle. Most of you are probably wondering what a Christingle is - even other Christians would likely be confused, baffled even. I must admit it is one of the more eccentric and niche church traditions. Basically it is a short routine where you construct what is called a Christingle. This is an oragne (representing the earth) with a ribbon around it's centre, a candle inserted into the top of it, and 4 cocktail sticks ringing it with sweets and raisins (ewww!) skewed onto them. I won't go into details but essentially it is a symbolic craft service that originated in central Europe that only established itself properly in the UK in the 1960s. Of course the sweets were quickly eaten and the raisins thrown away. Then at the end of the service the lights are turned down as the candles are lit leaving you with a congregation of children armed with fire hazards. This service is aimed for kids 3-12 years old, but my sister and I still attended and took part way into our late teens and 20s - we were the biggest kids there! In fact we were probably the most excited out of everyone attending. When finished I liked to take out the candle, turn the Christingle upside down, and pretend it was Sputnik!
There are lots of other Church stories but too many to go into detail here. Of course when people talk about Christmas traditions they will likely mention which festive films they like to watch. The list of movies that count is almost inexhaustible, indeed you could even add Godfather I to the list (what says Christmas like gangster Marlon Brando getting shot at Christmas buying oranges, perhaps even for a Christingle?). The Bolitho-Jones family favourites are Muppet’s Christmas Carol, Scrooged, and Love Actually (if you ignore the Keira Knightley story). A peculiar addition to our list is not a film, but rather a lesser known comedy series called Mongrels. It’s quite a rude show but this didn’t stop us popping it on on Christmas Eve while drinking and singing along to the song F*** Chickens at 11pm. I agree – a weird tradition. It was short lived, lasting only 3 years. Still I recommend you look up the show. It has puppets! One of our Christmas Eve telly sessions ended up with a bit of fancy dress, with my dad dressing up as Mrs Claus. He probably drank a bit too much that year because when, after the rest of us had gone to bed, my sister arrived home from a party she found him slumped on the sofa asleep still in costume.
And I will leave you with that image for with that it is time to go. As you might have noticed this is part 1. The original draft of this blog entry was so long that I thought it was best to cut it into two parts. Part 2 will be next week and will contain more festive pictures of me celebrating a very 90's UK Christmas.
So with that it's bye for now. A big Merry Christmas, and I will see you soon.