Ellen, Nathan, Keogh and Rory talk about their warmest Christmas memory
My warmest Christmas song memory is a harrowing tale. The tale is harrowing as it involves the first time I heard ‘Have a Cheeky Christmas’ by the Cheeky Girls. Cheeky and harrowing may not be two words you would normally connect together, but somehow, these women managed it with this Christmas single.
I cannot remember what age my friends and I were when we were first introduced to this song, but if anyone has yet to hear it I will include some lyrics, as no explanation can do it justice: “Life is good/We all go crazy/Light the fire/and come with me/Dancing at the Christmas party/Lots of wine/And the boys get cheeky”.
I don’t think any of us, in our tinted seasonal glasses, had ever imagined that the festive season could be so full of mischief. Excited by the prospect of an uncensored and cheeky Christmas, we would huddle together in the yard during our final days before Christmas break, gathered around my friend’s pink LG slide as she played the song in a youtube to MP3 download format.
On our last day before we parted for Christmas, just as we were exiting the class wearing Christmas hats and large hand-me-down duffle coats, my friend waved goodbye to our teacher, who was standing kindly at the door waving us off and told him to “Have a Cheeky Christmas”.
I cannot remember if that Christmas was, in fact, cheeky, but I still love that song.
Raised as I was in the Anglican Communion, my warmest memories of Christmas music are those of Carols, sung in churches by whole congregations. Nowadays I have no supernatural beliefs or Divine support, but I remember well that I once had. On Christmas eve each year, my family and I would attend a Choral service in a small church outside any village. The old stone building would be freezing at first, but between the tightly packed congregation, the large jackets, and the general merriment, the place would warm up.
As a former service worker, I think Christmas pop music can get stuffed, but the sound of ‘Oh come all ye faithful’ or ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen’ send shivers through my entire body. In mid-December, once it’s actually appropriate to celebrate Christmas, I start listening to The Oxford Trinity Choir and similar. Oddly, I find this music slightly too good. Part of the feeling is the sense of community found in communal Choral singing, and the bad singing is part of it. Not that a bad choir on Spotify would end these woes either, now that I think about it.
Last year, I attended the LGBT+ choral service in the Unitarian Church on St. Stephen’s Green. I still feel slightly out of place in churches due to my lack of belief, but the inclusive nature of the event and the Unitarian’s lax attitude towards actually believing in God made me feel far more comfortable. I am eternally grateful to them for allowing me to relive my churchy memories without fear of judgment.
My warmest Christmas song memory? For me, the best Christmas song is 'Fairytale of New York'. Sure, all Christmas songs are overplayed in my retail job, and by Christmas, I develop a fight or flight response to any note Paul McCartney sings. The Pogues are different.
My Dad lives up in the North, and every year we’d make the long journey up on St. Stephen's Day. As a kid, I had no real perception of time passing, and there were only so many DS games I could play before getting bored. It was also a tiring journey for my Mam to drive, as it took nearly 2 hours to get there. Near the border, when we were both just anxious to get there, 'Fairytale of New York' would start playing on BBC Radio One. Shane McGowen’s drunken voice and the instrumentals at the beginning of the song are unforgettable. My Mam and I would belt out the song, her taking Christy MacColl’s parts and me taking Shane McGowen's, doing my best to sound as drunk as possible.
The song's meaning wasn’t apparent to a younger me, but that didn’t really matter, all I knew was it was a classic that used to make the borning, cold car journey up the north a whole lot more bearable. Every year from then on, we’d make sure to stick it on at some point and scream ‘til our heart's content. I knew when I heard that song that I’d be nearer to sitting down and having my Grandad’s gorgeous Christmas dinner, with the whole family in tow.
Now, there will be some cynics out there who say Chris Martin should not have anything to do with Christmas, that his commercial sell-out of a band should stick to the popstar script and leave the sacred institution of Christmas to normal folks (and Michael Bublé). Generally, I agree with these fervent condemnations of Chris and his too-good-to-be-true rainbow trousers and boyish charm.
However, and inconveniently for me, it is a Coldplay song that I stick on come December 24th, 25th and beyond - into January if my luck holds!. More than anything else it is this song that evokes in me that most elusive of emotions - ‘Christmassy-ness’. For me, mince pies and mulled wine have nothing on Martin in this department.
For me, ‘Christmas Lights’ is inexorably associated with some of my warmest Christmas memories. In particular, the song was sung repeatedly, with many demanded encores, at the final Christmas Carol Concert of my school days. Arm-in-arm with some of my best friends, we, along with some of the more game teachers, belted out the choruses and mumbled through the verses. Drunk, on Christmas, if not the watered-down mulled wine, we sang, we sang and we sang. As we poured out of our school’s lino-floored and tinsel-bedecked hall, the tune stuck in our heads for days to come, the words on our lips, we had collectively experienced what a singular joy Christmas music can be.
Even during this most troubled of years, the song’s maxim rings true; while the Christmas lights ‘keep shining on’ all your troubles, will, even temporarily, be gone.