Christmas 20 Q&As

One of my friends very recently put up on her website twenty Christmas related questions and her answers to them, and it was fascinating reading. I thought it a very good idea so decided to think of the same answers to what I'd be asked and present them here for all you lovely people out there. Apologies if some of them are lengthy, but felt the need to explain myself. Hope you enjoy.

1 - Wrapping paper or gift bags?
Wrapping paper all the way for me. Sometimes the gift bag sounds much like the too easy option, just bung it in there and that's done. I like to wrap them in some nice paper as it feels much more like a gift that way. I don't go overboard with it, wrap it nice paper, add the gift tag, and job done. I do like to use the same wrapping paper for all my presents though, just looks nice.

2 - Real tree or artificial tree?
Up to a couple of years ago, I'd have said artificial tree, and I used to have a white artificial ones for years which I'd dig out and decorate and make a bit of effort with. However, it had seen better days at 2008 was the last time that I used it. The Love In My Heart bought herself a real tree when I was with her one day in December, and you could tell how festive the whole house smelt just from the tree. So last year and this year I've bought a real tree, and got some nice decorations and lights to make it look that bit more festive. The good thing is that the local council recycle all the real trees in January, so at least you know something's being done in a good way afterwards.

3 - When do you put up the tree?
I have no set time to be honest, but over the last few years we've been to the Christmas Markets in Ramsbottom in the first Sunday in December and usually head over to Summerseat Garden Centre not long after to go and select a tree. So normally the tree would then go up the same night and be decorated. Some people I know put them up on 1st December and some others put them up exactly two weeks before Christmas (ie: the 11th) - but each to their own.

4 - When do you take the tree down?
I do tend to take it down on the 1st or 2nd January though as normally it's back at work just after that time.

5 - Favourite gift received as a child?
I guess that I was lucky in that even though as a child we didn't have that much money, Mum and Dad worked hard to make sure that even if was only small gifts that we'd receive at Christmas, it'd be something that we'd treasure. I always appreciated that and even now when I think about giving to others at this festive time, I think that it's the thought that counts more than anything else. Mind you, I do remember plenty of board games that you'd get at that time and always had a fondness for Mouse Trap back in the day. But the one thing that sticks out in my mind most of all was the original Fisher Price Tree House, where the top of the tree could be pushed down making it easier to store, and the trunk had a hidden lift for the little figures to head down. Hours of fun with that one it has to be said.

6 - Hardest person to buy for?
No one is that difficult to buy for really, but it's often difficult to know exactly what someone hasn't already got - and so it's always nice to have some ideas from them as to what they'd like. I'd say that one of my brothers isn't the easiest person to get for, simply because there's so much he already has.

7 - Easiest person to buy for?
Believe it or not, possibly Mum! She's normally quite practical and if we have an idea about something that we can get her, she normally understands the reasoning. This year's present for Mum is a case in point: it replaces something that's pretty much broken and it'll be something that she'll get use of, and sometimes that's better than just another luxury item. The Love In My Heart is a close second as there's lots of things she likes and also lots of ideas I have because I know what makes her smile. She loves hearts big time, and for her birthday I got her this heart shaped wire frame with lots of little wire hearts inside which can hold her pictures and stuff, in an elegant cream colour. Just an example.

8 - Mail or email Christmas cards?
I think there's something a bit more personal about writing out a card by hand and posting it to someone to be honest. As much as email is useful, sometimes putting things down in writing is rather lovely.

9 - Favourite Christmas movie?
Well I don't really massively have any favourites of those types of movie, as they can often be a little bit too cliched for my liking. The only one I have a bit of fondness for is The Snowman, which Channel 4 will normally show on Christmas Eve. I was ten years old when they first showed it and it's a gorgeously wonderful piece of animation, and the ending is just really sad yet lovely at the same time. There's plenty of films that get shown around Christmas every year, and amongst those I really like the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, with Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka - one of the great family films of all time - even if Roald Dahl himself wasn't fond of it.

10 - When do you start shopping for Christmas?
To be honest, as early as possible. There's plenty of friends and family to buy for and it's all about spreading the cost over a few months to make life easier - and you can get some good bargains by shopping earlier too. Normally around September is when I make a concerted effort, although this year I actually bought my first present in July.

11 - Have you ever recycled a Christmas present?
Not as in given to someone else, no, but any packaging of a present that's paper or cardboard I will try and recycle that so at least it's being put to good use.

12 - Favourite thing to eat at Christmas?
The Christmas dinner, especially if Mum's cooking it. Even though I don't live at home, Mum will normally invite me round to spend Christmas dinner there, and normally she will be giving us plenty to eat for the dinner itself. It normally means I won't need to eat anything else for the rest of the day. The other thing I like to have are those pigs in blankets, even though they're probably very high in calorie count.

13 - Lights on the tree - coloured or clear?
Clear all the way for me - that way it's neutral and can co-ordinate with my mainly silver baubles that I have on the tree. Simple yet classy, methinks.

14 - Favourite Christmas song?
There's so many to choose from these days, isn't there? Looking back at Christmasses past, it was always a good race to be the Christmas number one with something that actually had something about the festive period in it, so stuff like Slade's classic go down well because they're almost part of folklore now. That said, I really do like The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl's "Fairytale of New York" as it's a little bit more edgy in terms of subject matter, and Kirsty really does nail her parts ever so well. As for the others, if I was compiling some sort of Christmas album, it'd have to have Wham's "Last Christmas", The Waitresses' "Christmas Wrapping", Ring Out Solstice Bells" by Jethro Tull, and no Christmas would be complete without the original Band Aid "Do They Know It's Christmas?" just to add a bit of conscience in there. However, I'd be almost tempted to rebel and say that one of my favourite Christmas songs was last year's Christmas number one ("Killing in the Name" by Rage Against The Machine), just because it actually stuck two fingers up to the X Factor, and that's a good thing.

When you look back over the years at what was Christmas number ones, there's been plenty of cracking songs too - The Human League's "Don't You Want Me" being one, "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen being another, and Pink Floyd's "Another Brick In The Wall (part 1)" a third. They were all great songs that just so happened to be number one at that point, and so have always been associated with Christmas as well as being other classics of their time. I was thinking about that when I saw The Human League the other night as well. It's as almost as if I'd been taken back in time to Christmas 1981!

15 - Travel at Christmas or stay at home?
I'm pretty lucky in that almost all of the immediate family live pretty close by, and I try to get to see as many as I can of them on Christmas Day. I can walk it around to most of them if need be, so it's not a massive problem. And The Love In My Heart isn't that far either, so we will try and see each other during Christmas Day at some point, normally in the evening, so we can have our time together. If I had to travel, I'd do so a few days before so I'd feel relaxed on the day itself.

16 - Angel, star or ribbon on top of the tree?
None. I'm not religious really so the angel or star are right out. Instead a few years ago I found this really nice little soft toy polar bear, which has a little hanging hook so he can be placed on top of the tree. It's a little different and quirky and it's part of me.

17 - Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning?
Definitely Christmas Day. Opening them on Christmas Eve is cheating to be honest and just would make you feel disappointed if you had nothing to open on the actual day as well.

18 - Most annoying thing about this time of year?
The X Factor's endless marketing drive to get Christmas number one year after year. It's just so demoralising to anyone else who wants to try and get that coveted spot when they know they're up against the machine and media that is Simon Cowell in a nutshell. Clearly all the hype of the TV show and the way that you've built up a relationship over the time of the show means that it's into everyone's brain, and that's unfair. What of all the bands that make it the hard way and really are trying to make themselves heard? That's why for me it was so good to see it beaten last year, it showed that people still care enough about real music to make a point. There's possibly too many who want to compete now, but why not schedule it so that the series culminates in August and so they get a Summer number one instead, and make the Christmas slot a fair fight again?

19 - What do you want for Christmas this year?
All I want is to be with the woman that I love and adore so much, and to make her feel special when she opens her presents from me. Every time I think of her, it's like my Christmas present is there and in reality I don't need anyhing else. But it's really lovely that I've got nice family and friends who'll get me lovely stuff, especially CDs. Yaay for music.

20 - Traditional colours (red and green) or others?
Green, with usually some silver. Simple and classic yet with a twist. And why not?