Ian Clayton, Featherstone-based writer and TV presenter
I have an aversion to asking for specific presents and I can pinpoint exactly when this started. It was 1971, T. Rex had a new LP called Electric Warrior. At that time I think I wanted to be Marc Bolan, so I asked my Dad to get me the album.
Come Christmas Day I opened the presents: the usual jumper hand knitted by my Gran, an annual and then, left until the last, a 12in square wrapped in paper that featured snow covered cottages. I thought I knew what was in it, so pulled back the wrapping ever so carefully, to reveal a record by Little Richard!
I couldn’t disguise the disappointment. My Dad said “What’s Up?” I said “Nowt! It’s just that I thought it was something else.” I put the record to one side. My Dad picked it up and put it onto the Dansette, then started jiving round the front room to Tutti Frutti. I found Little Richard in a box not that long ago. I might bring him out for a spin this year in memory of my daft dad and sip a dram of Talisker whisky (I know what one of my presents is, because I’ve already treated myself).
Ian McMillan, poet and Yorkshire Post columnist
My grandson Thomas was born in November 2004 and so his first Christmas was always going to be really special; my dear old Dad had died on Christmas Day in 2001 and since then a festival that I really loved had lost some of its sparkle.
Early on Christmas Eve I carried Thomas into the back room and we stood looking at the cards that were hanging on the walls.
I pointed them out to him and talked to him about them; Silent Night, my Dad’s favourite carol and one that always reduced him to helpless tears, was playing on a radio.
We came to a card that had a huge golden star on it. Thomas reached over to it, seemed to be pointing at it, and in that moment Christmas became magical again. The best Christmas ever.
Alan Lane, artistic director of Leeds-based theatre company Slung Low
My best Christmas ever was the year I proposed to my wife in 2006. I had this brilliantly complicated plan involving tying the ring to my dog’s collar and have him present it in a suitably Richard Curtis cutesy style.
But during rehearsals Billy (the dog) kept trying to eat the ring and the idea of having to spend Boxing Day going through his poops was too much for an already tense moment so I kept it simple and appeared by her side of the bed first thing in the morning on one knee.
We had 21 people round for lunch that day, both families and assorted others in need of a turkey lunch.
So many people we had to cook the veggies outside on a barbecue. The sheer joy of that many people getting on together coupled with the relief that Lucy had said yes made for a Christmas I’d never forget.
This year we’ll be performing our Christmas adventure, 59 Minutes to Save Christmas up until Christmas Eve at Cast Theatre in Doncaster.
Saving Christmas with 40 kids, a fairy stuck up a tree, a singing snowman and the General of the Christmas Brigade isn’t too bad a way to prepare for the big day I can tell you.
James Brining, artistic director of West Yorkshire Playhouse
It was last year. A couple of days before Christmas we were due to go to Orkney where my wife Beverley is from. With forecasts of terrible storms I was ready to give up but my wife is more intrepid than me. “We’re going!” she said.
At that point I was sauntering over Waterloo Bridge in London. Most of my family were in Leeds except for Cameron, our oldest, who was in Stirling. The cats needed to go to their cat hotel. It was hopeless.
What followed was a mad dash across London, packed train to York to intercept my family (cats safely checked in) followed by a midnight drive to Edinburgh picking up our oldest son on the way. After a three hour sleep break we arrived in Thurso with six tired but determined people around 11am. The much-dreaded ferry crossing was absolutely fine: the Pentland Firth was like a millpond. Two hours later the storm arrived, there were gale force winds and all boats were cancelled.
We had made it. The kids getting us up at 6am to see what Santa has brought, walking across the beach at Scapa looking out over the Flow into the low winter sun, playing the Orkney Ba (a street football game involving around 250 Uppies and Doonies which lasts as long as it lasts – in this case six hours), and of course fantastic food and drink, paper crowns and crackers. The nature of the journey meant we were able to take even more joy in the delights of an amazing Christmas spent together.
Holmfirth artist Ashley Jackson
It has to be the harsh winter of 1962, when I married my wife Anne. We had little money back then so Ron Darwent, my boss, friend and mentor, let me use his van so I could get to the church.
The wedding reception was held at her parents’ house and then we left to go on our honeymoon – in Blackpool out of season. Before leaving Ron gave me some honeymoon night advice: “If there is a band playing stay up late and listen to them, for if you go to your room early you will be listening to the band all night!” He remained a father figure to me throughout my life right up until he passed away two years ago, a loss I still feel.
Returning home to Barnsley, the cold weather continued from Boxing Day right through to Easter the following year. Now, more than 50 years on, Anne and I are still together and every Christmas we share together with our family reminds me of this first one.
George Mudie, Labour MP for Leeds East
I can always remember getting up on Christmas morning with my two sisters and finding our presents laid out in separate piles. My parents were pretty poor, it wasn’t great stuff we got but the experience of it was wonderful.
It’s not about the amount of things you get, it’s about the wonder of Christmas. I must have been five or six at the time.
My other favourite and most memorable Christmas is when my two lads, who are now both in their early thirties, were about the same age.
Sadly, I think I overindulged them but it was wonderful to watch them being excited by the whole thing, especially when they were fix and six and that sort of age and yes, my wife and I laid out their presents in separate piles.
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