Mince pies. Turkey. Tinsel. The Queen’s Speech in 3D. Traditions are created all the time at Christmas, and it wouldn’t be Christmas without these five Festive-themed stories…
1. Baby Jesus being stolen.
Maybe it’s due to the global economic downturn, but the baby Jesus hasn’t half gone missing a lot this year. In some parts of the world – well, Newport Pagnell – it’s become something of sport, with the baby Jesus stolen not once, not twice, but three times.
To make matters worse, eyewitnesses say they saw the baby being kicked down the street – on Boxing Day. In Rhondda, Wales, an ‘illuminated celuloid’ representation of the son of God was stolen, for the first time since 1995, when he was subsequently found on a nearby riverbank (there’s a Moses joke in here somewhere) – but not this time.
In Kirkham, near Blackpool, they have at least found the baby Jesus, but you have to fear for the chances of Manchester Airport finding their baby Jesus, who went missing from Terminal One in mid December. Terminal One has more than 30 gates … and a lot of destinations served.
But perhaps the most bizarre Jesus theft goes to the light-fingered visitors in Birmingham who lifted Jesus in November (proof everything about Christmas starts earlier each year) and replaced him with …. a garden gnome:
2. Santa arrested
So there you are, relaxing briefly during your busiest time of the year, maybe working out how to illegally enter more homes than imaginable even by an over-ambitious Crimewatch producer, and what happens … you end up getting arrested. Christmas really wouldn’t be Christmas without Santa – or someone dressed up as him, to be fair, getting arrested.
A man dressed as Father Christmas was arrested for being drunk and disorderly. He got into a scuffle with a man wearing a Christmas jumper.
They followed that up with news of Rudolph and an angel getting into a scuffle:
“Oh the Magic of Xmas, Stratford officers attempting to resolve rowdy dispute between group of men, 2 reindeer and an angel.”
Up the road in Wolverhampton, it was elves, not Santa, who the police had to arrest for suspected assault. Proof, if it were needed, that sometimes staff really do learn from the boss.
And the whole workforce teamed up in Austin, Texas, where Santa and an elf were arrested after the big man started painting a message on a pavement. Don’t believe me? Here’s the video:
In Florida, he was caught with fake $100 notes – but trying to buy gift cards! - and also nabbed in Orlando for selling booze without a licence. There’s even a mug shot of him here. Sort of.
Sometimes, however, Santa is the victim – hit with a brick on a tour of Glasgow, thus, if nothing else, reinforcing the stereotyped image many still hold of Glasgow (unfairly, I might add).
3. Santa stuck
Once, as a trainee reporter, I did Christmas Day duty. On the fire station calls, I got the story that a man had been rescued from a roof. Yes, he’d been dressed as Santa at the time. The bill in his local newsagent the next day read: “Santa stuck on Mill Hill roof.” 11 years on, I’d like to tell this man: Don’t worry, you’re not the only Santa to get stuck.
Things went from bad to worse when Santa arrived to do a surprise appearance at a Reading shopping centre - getting stuck in mid air by his beard. Do you think the naughty boy who put the video on YouTube – which 373,000 people have viewed this year – got a present on December 25th?
There’s always one.
4. Christmas Day babies
I remember the birth of my baby daughter very well. I’ll never forget how strong the 3G connection was in the Royal Bolton Hospital maternity suite – even on a first-generation iPad. Maybe life experience makes you a better journalist, but I think if I’d seen my wife go through birth before the first time I did the Christmas Day babies round at the local hospital, I might have challenged the wisdom of this Christmas tradition.
Yet year in, year out, it seems mothers (and sometimes other members of the family too) are more than happy to have their pictures taken just hours after one of the most traumatic events life can throw at you. After all, after hour of pain, screaming at a midwife who is withholding the painkillers and breaking the hand of a caring partner who is trying to help you with your breathing, what more could you possibly want than a jolly snapper with a Santa hat appearing at your bedside, asking to put you in the Boxing Day paper?
For the reporter on duty, it can be a political nightmare. Does a Christmas Day baby mean anything to you if you don’t celebrate Christmas? (Answer: Yes, stop being so politically correct)? Do Mum and Dad share the same surname (Not a problem either way, but if you don’t check, expect problems!), and never, ever, assume that even the most obvious name is spelt as you’d expect.
This year, we had a celebrity Christmas Day baby: Brendon Cole’s little ‘un arrived. In Brighton, they give out the lengths of the babies as well as the weights (so, about one and a half school rulers set to replace the old ‘x bags of sugar’ reference? No, I thought not). In Plymouth, they had their busiest Christmas Day in a decade (blame the recession), in Oxford parents were asked to say what they’d like their child to grow up to be (I’m guessing they weren’t expecting Coventry City striker to be an answer), in Sheffield one baby is being called Furby for now, while in Leicester a mother gave birth to her second Christmas Day baby.
And just in case the people of Dacorum were wondering, no, you didn’t have any Christmas Day babies, as the Hemel Gazette reported on Friday:
I think the large picture saying ‘news’ might be an attempt at self-assurance that this is, indeed, news. One for Peter Sands ‘no news’ list, I expect.
Sadly, I couldn’t find a single Holly, Ivy or Angel born on Christmas Day. But the Wetherfield Gazette isn’t out until next Wednesday – assuming such names really only do happen in in soaps.
5. Christmas lights
Where would we be without Christmas lights? Causing photographers in newsrooms everywhere to curse like nothing else (“You try shooting f***ing fairlights in the dark, kiddo” is my favourite ‘overheard in the newsroom comment’ on this one), there’s no doubt that little else prompts the ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ in people than getting the Christmas lights out.
Fortunately for grumpy photographers, that normally means a lot of houses covered in a lot of light. In Leicester, people drive from miles around to 85-year-old Fred Toone’s annual display. He says it makes people feel Christmassey, which is just as well I guess.
This year, he’s added a snow machine and Santa Claus. Because 180,000 lights just aren’t enough:
He said: “It’s been absolutely fantastic. The snow machine has been a big hit, the kids just love it. And it definitely helps to have Santa and his elf outside.”
Assuming Santa and the elf are sober of course – and we already that can never be taken as a given.
But the undoubted winner this year has to be in Irlam, Greater Manchester, where a house has been decked out in lights to make it look as though it’s singing ‘Gangam style.’ Really:
You can see it doing Shakin’ Stevens here – they’re promising to do it for charity next year. Bet the neighbours can’t wait!
Happy new year