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  1. #1
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    BBC Christmas Specials

    My wife and I watch far more UK television than American, and one of the several differences is the institution of the Christmas Special. We happened to watch a Downton Abbey Christmas episode yesterday which got me to thinking on this topic (in the middle of summer!)

    I found this article which sums it up better than I could have done:

    Tradition dominates the BBC, and one of those traditions reaches to the heart of British culture in December — Christmas. From Royal addresses to sentimental cameo-driven treats, Christmas television programmes have shaped our idea of the holiday, with some Britons always planning to settle into their favourite chair surrounded by family to watch, what is to them, appointment television.

    Sometimes a Christmas special is connected with an existing television series, while others are created each year without any connection to an existing property. Of Christmas specials connected with a larger television series, some are self-contained episodes that do not necessarily play largely in the meta-plots of the series they belong to, while others are just as important to the story arc of the season, but have the additional duty of infusing the story with a bit of Christmas optimism. Whatever their origins, Christmas television specials play a unique role in British culture.


    These special programmes are always upbeat and often unabashedly sentimental, even maudlin, to us. The themes are goodwill, togetherness, and the putting aside of grievances. They tell us that the British make more of Christmas than we do, in those ways.

    By contrast our American Christmas seems more about material excesses, such as spending thousands of dollars on elaborate electrical displays on our houses, frantic shopping, and who can out-do whom in the matter of how much money is spent on gifts. Is this how the British see us? It's how I see ourselves, after watching these BBC Christmas programmes, in which shopping, displays, and gifts have little or no part.

    What say you all?

    (a video showing our absurdly excessive house decorating)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMl_81o-aQg
    Last edited by OC Richard; 27th July 21 at 04:59 AM.
    Proud Mountaineer from the Highlands of West Virginia; son of the Revolution and Civil War; first Europeans on the Guyandotte

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  3. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by OC Richard View Post

    By contrast our American Christmas seems more about material excesses, such as spending thousands of dollars on elaborate electrical displays on our houses, frantic shopping, and who can out-do whom in the matter of how much money is spent on gifts. Is this how the British see us? It's how I see ourselves, after watching these BBC Christmas programmes, in which shopping, displays, and gifts have little or no part.

    What say you all?

    (a video showing our absurdly excessive house decorating)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eMl_81o-aQg
    Some certainly do decorate their houses this side of the pond, but not on that scale that I am aware of. I hadn't really thought about how Christmas was celebrated in the States other than my wife's wish to visit New York at Christmas which is no longer an option. We don't watch a lot of TV at Christmas, spending time with family socialising or playing games is more normal, lockdown permitting.
    If you are going to do it, do it in a kilt!

  4. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by tpa View Post
    Some certainly do decorate their houses this side of the pond, but not on that scale that I am aware of. I hadn't really thought about how Christmas was celebrated in the States other than my wife's wish to visit New York at Christmas which is no longer an option. We don't watch a lot of TV at Christmas, spending time with family socialising or playing games is more normal, lockdown permitting.
    I sing Silent Night in a little church by candlelight every Christmas eve.
    Those ancient U Nialls from Donegal were a randy bunch.

  5. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by OC Richard View Post
    Of Christmas specials connected with a larger television series, some are self-contained episodes that do not necessarily play largely in the meta-plots of the series they belong to, while others are just as important to the story arc of the season, but have the additional duty of infusing the story with a bit of Christmas optimism.
    Sounds exactly like Christmas episodes of larger series' in the US.

    Christmas movies, on the other hand, to a one have plots akin to a love story.

    Love story: Happy relationship --> The breakup --> The get back together --> The happy ending.

    Christmas movie: Extravagant spending/decorating --> The calamity or misfortune --> The realization of "the reason for the season" --> The happy ending.

    That's why there's so many Christmas/Love Story movies. Same plot with two story lines.
    Tulach Ard

  6. #5
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    British Christmases have their share of excesses. People are often complaining (probably justly) that the season starts earlier and earlier, and more and more material goods are being thrust at us in advertisements. The difference between USA and UK may be one of degree, but I don't think it's as big a contrast as one might think from the TV programmes.

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  8. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kiltedjohn View Post
    British Christmases have their share of excesses. People are often complaining (probably justly) that the season starts earlier and earlier, and more and more material goods are being thrust at us in advertisements. The difference between USA and UK may be one of degree, but I don't think it's as big a contrast as one might think from the TV programmes.
    I try to avoid Christmas as much as I can, for very much the reasons stated above. However thatís pretty much how I understand it in a very general sense.
    " Rules are for the guidance of wise men and the adherence of idle minds and minor tyrants". Field Marshal Lord Slim.

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  10. #7
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    Christmas TV is regarded as particularly terrible I think. People are generally fairly comatose after their lunch and families are probably happier playing games and eating and drinking unwisely.

    The Christmas ghost story is another tradition, as is The Wizard if Oz, Casablanca, James Bond and Charles Dickens movies and series.

    Mercifully for the English the shops reopen on 26th and there is football and other holiday activities in normal years.

    Do folk in the USA take much time off work? In the UK and Ireland people seem to take 10 days to a fortnight off (not health care, emergency or retail workers).

  11. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by John_Carrick View Post
    Christmas TV is regarded as particularly terrible I think. People are generally fairly comatose after their lunch and families are probably happier playing games and eating and drinking unwisely.

    The Christmas ghost story is another tradition, as is The Wizard if Oz, Casablanca, James Bond and Charles Dickens movies and series.

    Mercifully for the English the shops reopen on 26th and there is football and other holiday activities in normal years.

    Do folk in the USA take much time off work? In the UK and Ireland people seem to take 10 days to a fortnight off (not health care, emergency or retail workers).
    Americans take the least time off of anyone in the Industrial world. At least, they have four day weekends. We have none of those in Canada (This coming weekend is a three day weekend in Ontario ... used to be referred to as "Bank Holiday" now "Civic Weekend".
    Those ancient U Nialls from Donegal were a randy bunch.

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  13. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by John_Carrick View Post
    Christmas TV is regarded as particularly terrible I think. People are generally fairly comatose after their lunch and families are probably happier playing games and eating and drinking unwisely.

    The Christmas ghost story is another tradition, as is The Wizard if Oz, Casablanca, James Bond and Charles Dickens movies and series.

    Mercifully for the English the shops reopen on 26th and there is football and other holiday activities in normal years.

    Do folk in the USA take much time off work? In the UK and Ireland people seem to take 10 days to a fortnight off (not health care, emergency or retail workers).
    It varies a lot by employer. When I was working retail in college I didn't get Christmas off with pay (the stores were just closed that one day).

    My current employer gives us two paid days off and we even got two additional days as a bonus one year. I’ve seen construction companies that give their crews the entire two weeks for Christmas and New Years off and others that work through both weeks save the holidays.

    So it’s really all over the place.
    Last edited by FossilHunter; 29th July 21 at 09:36 AM.
    Descendant of the Gillises and MacDonalds of North Morar.

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  15. #10
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    I have just been looking for the German words to Silent Night.
    I usually sing a couple of verses at some 'do' in the week before Christmas, it was the local folk club most years, ending with the first verse in English so people can join in.
    The last few years put a stop to most gatherings, but this year - perhaps, it will be possible.
    Few people know why, these days.

    Anne the Pleater
    I presume to dictate to no man what he shall eat or drink or wherewithal he shall be clothed."
    -- The Hon. Stuart Ruaidri Erskine, The Kilt & How to Wear It, 1901.

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