Tag Archives: christmas

Season’s greetings

We will be back in the New Year.



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Observations of an Expat: Christmas around the World

Tis the season. Egg nog, mulled wine, presents, Christmas trees, yule logs, Christmas cards, Midnight Mass, food, food and more food…. The list goes on and on. The Holiday Season is one tradition after another.

In fact, you could call it the Tradition Season just as easily as the Christmas or Holiday Season. But when and where did the traditions start? Well, they came from all over the Western world and some of the Eastern. Some have deeply religious roots. Others tell a political story. Some are strictly secular money making operations.

There was a time when Christmas was banned. And then there is the controversy about the actual birthday. The Bible does not actually give a date for the birth of Jesus, but Biblical historians believe that references to shepherds sitting outdoors at night on hills indicates that it was in the spring.

Early Christians didn’t bother with celebrating the birth of Jesus. Birthday celebrations were considered a pagan tradition. They concentrated on Easter. But fourth century Pope Julius I saw an opportunity to pull in pagan converts by setting a date for the birth of Jesus that coincided with the “birthday” of the Roman gods Mithras and Sol Invictus (25 December).

The chosen day also coincided with the feast of Saturnalia when Romans decorated their homes with wreaths (which symbolised eternal life) and greenery, including trees. They also indulged in a week of constant partying and exchanged gifts. Sound familiar?

But other Christmas traditions go back further. Archaeologists have uncovered proof that Druids made extensive use of the parasitic mistletoe during winter solstice celebrations. They believed it encouraged fertility which of course led to the association with kissing, and we all know what kissing leads to.

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What is the true meaning of Christmas?

Are you ready for Christmas? Are you staying at home or are you planning to visit your loved ones? These are some of the questions that we will be hearing a lot these days. There is a rush to buy, cook and make sure that the “Christmas experience” is close to being “perfect”. Whether we like it or not, it is almost impossible to avoid all the madness around the Festive Season. I often wonder whether we have lost our ability to recognise that Christmas can give us all a lot more than only a new toy, phone or a fancy gift.

For me personally, Christmas has two important meanings. First of all, it gives me an opportunity to reflect on the elapsing year. It has been challenging, hasn’t it? Here at home, we’ve had constant “political drama”, ongoing financial challenges and high inflation. The situation abroad isn’t unfortunately better. There is war, various global conflicts, climate or a refugee crisis. From the human perspective, it is not easy to remain positive and optimistic, isn’t it? We have all experienced a “poverty of trust” and it often feels like that the hope and belief for a better tomorrow is fading away.

Having said, maybe there are ways in which we can make the Festive Season truly “magical”. Is this a good moment to look around and notice people who are still less fortunate than us? Is this a perfect time to pick up the phone and ring a friend, member of the family, someone we have not spoken with for a while? Is it also a good moment to simply knock on our neighbour’s door to say hi, check if they are ok? What if we tried this Christmas to give our time and ourselves to people around us? What if we tried to switch off, simply be in the present moment and “park” for a day or two our phone and stop scrolling through our social media platforms? Watching a family movie, going for a walk might have a positive impact on building healthy relationships with people around us. Moreover, it will also help us to improve our wellbeing, so often neglected by our busy lifestyles.

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Christmas HOPE 2022

There is only one word that springs to my mind this Christmas; it is HOPE.

The last 12 months have been so difficult for us individually, collectively and for the whole global family. The end of the pandemic, re-adjustment to life after Covid, invasion of Ukraine, problems “at home”; endless political saga, high inflation and a huge cost of living crisis. The list of real issues and reasons to lose HOPE is endless.

Christmas is usually a good opportunity to stop, rest and recharge our batteries. Religious or not, we all look forward to Christmas to reconnect with our friends, relatives and family members. These social moments of interaction are so important for our wellbeing and sense of belonging to our community, society or respective traditions.

I personally HOPE that this Christmas, we will all try to remain faithful in the goodness of humanity. I HOPE that we will be able to be grateful for who we are, recognise that we are all unique and that we are a GIFT for one another.

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Observations of an Expat: Christmas Traditions

Tis the season. Eggnog, mulled wine, presents, Christmas trees, yule logs, Christmas cards, Midnight Mass, food, food and more food… The list goes on and on. The Holiday Season is one tradition after another.

In fact, you could call it the Tradition Season just as easily as the Christmas or Holiday Season. But when and where did the traditions start? Well, they came from all over the Western world and some of the Eastern. Some have deeply religious roots. Others tell a political story. Some are strictly secular money making operations.

There was a time when Christmas was banned. And then there is the controversy about the actual birthday. The Bible does not actually give a date for the birth of Jesus, but Biblical historians believe that references to shepherds sitting outdoors at night on hills indicates that it was in the spring.

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LDV’s Christmas Break

We will be doing our best to take a Christmas break this year. We have all had a tough year, including the LDV team, so we need some down time.

We will be taking a festive break between 23 and 27 December.

Of course, there are things that may crop up that will inspire us to put digital pen to paper. After all, who knows what the situation will be with the Brexit trade deal?

If you are inspired to send us pieces, please do, and we will deal with them from 28th December. Mark Valladares would be delighted to come back to a full inbox.

To be honest, my plans for Christmas have not been changed at all, nor have they been affected by Scotland’s national lockdown. We continue to avoid as much human contact as possible until we can get vaccinated. I am fortunate though, to be able to spend it with people I love and a massive pile of unread books. And an even more massive pile of beautiful new Focus leaflets to deliver, so long as the guidance permits it.

My heart breaks for those who are stuck on their own when they didn’t want to be, who have been trapped by circumstance in the middle of a Tier 4 area or who can’t have the guests that they had hoped. Let’s all look after each other by picking up the phone and making sure our loved ones are ok.

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The Late Late Toy Show – an Irish institution

This Friday, Christmas in Ireland will officially begin. The institution that is The Late Late Toy Show will be aired live on RTE One and internationally on the RTE Player.

It is the job of the Irish emigrant to explain to her non-Irish friends exactly what the appeal of The Toy Show is. Why do grown adults drop everything to get the goodies in, get settled in for the evening and pretend that they are children again? Why does Ireland stop for this one night, and in this Covid world we currently live in, why is the Irish Government desperately working to set out the exit plan from lockdown in time for The Toy Show? What is it about this magical Toy Show that brings grown adults to their knees?

The Late Late Toy Show began as a segment on toys on The Late Late Show back in 1976. The legendary broadcaster, Gay Byrne, saw the appeal of this segment and grew it into a fully-fledged dedicated programme once a year. If you’re of a certain age, you will remember the cheesy children from various stage schools singing and dancing, you might remember the precocious children showing off the toys they were to demonstrate or you might remember the delightfully entertaining children who could not but put a smile on your face. The Toy Show is warm television viewing with a heart. The key to its success is its values – an expectation of what childhood should be like putting family at the core of it.

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Optimism, hope and trying not to be Scrooge

Embed from Getty Images

I’m not channelling Ebenezer Scrooge but at one level Christmas is the last thing we should be worrying about at the moment. Yet it drips through media headlines almost on a daily basis. I’m not against bank holidays although many people have had too much in the way of non-working days this year. I suspect I am irritated because Christmas has been put firmly in a political context this year.

Our Prime Minister seems to think he has a supreme obligation to cheer people up while blithely unaware of how much he is capable of depressing us. He does apologise, of course, but he apologises for the wrong things. Managing a country in the midst of a pandemic should not be about saying “I’m sorry but we are all going to have to do the right thing”.

Unsurprisingly I am not against Christian festivals! However for those who see Christmas as a high point for affirming one strand of religious faith there are good models to remember. Easter was for the most part done differently this year. Mosque leaders should be commended for their discipline and messaging during Eid. We should be taking seriously the possibility of the same pattern being required over the Christmas season.

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30 October 2020 – today’s press releases

  • Government meetings must produce results for families over the festive season
  • Welsh Liberal Democrats welcome progress on Christmas Travel

Government meetings must produce results for families over the festive season

Responding to reports that the UK Government will hold meetings to try to develop a UK-wide approach to restrictions for the festive period, Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

It is welcome that the governments of the four nations are listening to the Liberal Democrats’ calls. With so many families desperate to be back together this festive season, we simply cannot allow political bickering and fractured guidance to confuse and divide people.

These meetings must be more than just a publicity stunt. They must result in comprehensive uniform guidance for family gatherings, as well as a common approach to transport, student return and asymptomatic testing – and it must happen urgently.

Ultimately, if we are to both keep people safe and ensure families have any chance of spending holidays such as Diwali, Hanukkah and Christmas together, then Ministers across these isles must also get a grip on the failing test, trace and isolate trace system.

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28 October 2020 – the overnight press release

Four nations summit needed to keep families safe at Christmas, liberals warn

Liberal Democrats in Scotland, Wales and England have joined with the Alliance Party in calling for a “four nations summit” to consider a united approach to keeping family gatherings safe during the festive season.

In a joint letter to the four governments of the UK, the Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey, Scottish Leader Willie Rennie, Welsh Leader Jane Dodds and Alliance Deputy Leader Stephen Farry MP warned the “interlinked nature of life in the United Kingdom means no one government can devise guidance for the festive season in isolation.”

The letter follows uncertainty about students returning for Christmas and conflicting comments about family gatherings, with Scotland’s National Clinical Director Jason Leitch branding multi-household gatherings “fiction” while the Prime Minister indicated rules could be relaxed.

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23-25 October 2020 – the long weekend’s press releases

  • Liberal Democrats push for expansion of Hong Kong citizenship offer
  • PM’s failure to listen to scientists has made family Christmas less likely
  • Tories must “wake up to reality” and do the right thing on Free School Meals

Liberal Democrats push for expansion of Hong Kong citizenship offer

A Liberal Democrat Bill to grant all Hong Kong Citizens a pathway to UK citizenship and “strengthen the UK’s historic bond with the people of Hong Kong” is scheduled to have its Second Reading debate in the House of Commons today.

The Bill, tabled by Liberal Democrat MP Alistair Carmichael, Chair of the APPG on Hong Kong and Patron of Hong Kong Watch, would create a route to UK citizenship for all Hong Kongers.

By expanding British National Overseas (BNO) status to all Hong Kongers, the Bill goes well beyond the Conservative Government’s current citizenship commitments, which extend only to specific groups currently eligible to claim BNO status.

The Liberal Democrats have condemned the Home Office’s “deceptive” claim that the cost of a five-year visa for Hong Kongers will be just £250, as the true figure will be well over £3000 once the Immigration Health Surcharge is taken into account.

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A Christmas message – the movie

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A Christmas message

Happy Christmas! I’ve got three big tasks this Christmas.

First, my daughter’s present. Ellie wrote to Father Christmas with her present wish list.

The good news was Santa collected her letter. And he ate the mince pie! Although he did leave some tell-tale crumbs.

The bad news is I now have to get Santa to bring three live unicorns.

It’s my own fault – I bought Ellie this snow globe unicorn last year. But I’m not sure where to start looking for a live unicorn. So I’m thinking of ringing the Prime Minister. Apparently Mr Johnson does a good line in unicorns.

But my second task is easier. To celebrate my own birthday. I wasn’t born in a stable – my mum had me, at home, at ten past eight Christmas morning 1965.

Apparently my dad cooked the Christmas lunch. And my mum ate seconds. And afterwards, they all watched the Queen’s Speech – her Majesty’s Christmas message.

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My advice to Meghan

In the spirit of the 12 Days of Christmas, which end tomorrow on January 5th, here are 12 bits of advice I’d offer our future royal family member. I myself married into the establishment 23 years ago from across the pond – a different sort of establishment, but nevertheless, the esteemed role of being an Oxford don’s wife.

  1. No matter how long you live here, people will hear your accent first. Not your words or what you’re saying, your accent. So just accept that you will always be ‘that American Harry married.’
  2. Keep your sense of humour. The British are

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Welcome to my day: 25 December 2017 – peace and goodwill to all…

Welcome to Creeting St Peter, on this Christmas Day – that’s St Peter’s, just before last night’s carol service, by the way. Caron has already said a few very kind words to welcome the day, and my job is to… well… not do very much really.

However, in keeping with my habit of giving you a musical offering, and because it’s been a trying year for liberals, here are the Muppet Chickens…

May I wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year!

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So what’s on your Christmas reading list?

It’s that time of year when we hope that our nearest and dearest know us well enough to get us the books we want for Christmas. There is nothing nicer than spending the Christmas holidays snuggled up on the sofa with a nice pile of books that you don’t usually get the time to read.

My husband has been pointed firmly in the direction of the new Nigella book. Anything with a recipe for a chocolate and amaretto cake in it will definitely have pride of place in my Christmas reading pile. He also knows not really to bother buying me politics books because I will have bought them for myself throughout the year and failed to find time to read them.  Here are some I am looking forward to reading over the holidays:

I’m already a fair bit of the way through Hillary Rodham Clinton’s What Happened. I also have the audio book of Hillary reading. With every page there’s a huge pang of what might have been. I’ve been a huge fan of Hillary’s for half my life and I think she would have made a brilliant President. She would have done so much for young people and particularly women and girls in the most difficult places on earth to be female. Her book is candid and terrifying and it even has a chapter on love and kindness which aren’t qualities often associated with modern politics. They are always there in abundance as there are good people in all parties, but they don’t get much coverage.

Iain Dale’s Biteback Publishing is very annoyingly having a “everything at half price” sale until 31st December. Here is a selection of the Lib Dem books you might wish to buy.


David Laws’ second book on the Coalition, his diaries as he wrote them, is another interesting take on those years in Government. It’s not so neatly organised and very much in the moment.  He even included those entires which show him in an unexpectedly poor light. I’ve been an admirer of David’s ever since I realised that, despite being a bit too right wing for me on the economy, he was in favour of banning smacking. However, his rather bitter attacks on decent Lib Dem activists like Linda Jack are the polar opposite of endearing.  I’ll save that one for a day I’m angry anyway.

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A Christmas Gift Guide

You know how it is. What with by-elections and all you simply haven’t had time to sort out your Christmas gifts. Before panic sets in relax, don’t worry, sit back and enjoy the LDV last minute gift guide. All the political pressies you could possibly want – and plenty you didn’t!

For children

It simply has to be the “Tiger Tim” cuddly toy. Like our leader, his qualities and all round niceness speak for themselves and he even has a miniature bird of liberty T-Shirt. Yours for £9.50 from the wonderful Lib Dem Image. The Parliament Shop has also has a lovely wooden toy – “House of Commons in a box” but a bit pricier at £19.99.

For the ageing activist

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Merry Christmas to you and yours


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Call Clegg Christmas Special – bullying, learning support for children in hospital, jungles and jumpers

I think it must have been about 12:05 yesterday when I realised that there actually was no hope for me. I mean, it was Christmas Day and there I was not only listening to the Call Clegg Christmas Special, but tweeting about it as well. In my defence, the people who were re-tweeting what I was saying were probably worse.

My intention was to listen to the show while peeling the turnips and tatties (the latter being auto-corrected to tattoos on Twitter, to much hilarity) for dinner. I did get them done, eventually, but I guess my tweets were making notes for this post.

The show was recorded a couple of weeks ago in a Sheffield hospital’s Children’s Ward. Nick Ferrari actually went Up North. He didn’t wear a Christmas jumper, though. Our Nick did, and mighty garish it was too. He’d early tweeted a picture of himself wearing it.

Nick took questions from the children in the ward on some pretty serious and hard-hitting subjects. One girl asked him what could be done to make education provision better for children with Cancer. She now had the all-clear, thankfully, but when she was having her treatment, she’s found it very difficult to get the school and health professionals to work together. Nick was pretty horrified by what she told him, saying that it was “basic common sense and decency” that people should work together to make sure sick children and young people have their education disrupted as little as possible.

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Happy Christmas from the Cleggs: here’s Nick and Miriam’s festive photobooth card

Nick Clegg’s Christmas card has been unveiled today – a photobooth set of four shots depicting he and Miriam as Nick pulls on a red Santa hat.

clegg famil xmas card

The insta-reaction from the Twitterati has been positive:

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My grumpy Christmas

Clegg family Xmas card 2013I really do not like the practice adopted by most party leaders of sending out Christmas cards adorned with portraits of themselves and their families.   Having caught a glimpse of the card sent by Charles and Camilla this year, it seems this is not limited to politicians, but it is certainly not widespread amongst the rest of us.

Most of us send cards that illustrate the significance of the season, drawing on religious or mid-winter symbolism.  So why do politicians usurp the underlying message of peace and hope with their blatant  acts of self-promotion? Even Nick Clegg’s ironic take this year, which was charming and playful – and yes, I did receive one of those through the post – was still saying ‘look at me’.

There are subtler ways of harnessing the power of the Christmas card. Many MPs invite children in local schools to submit Christmas card designs, and the winner has the pleasure of seeing their card in print and sent to hundreds, if not thousands, of local people.  This gives a great message to constituents – the self-effacing MP supports local schools, likes to encourage young people, and endorses the true meaning of Christmas.

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The Clegg Family Christmas Card, with a little help from their sons

Here is the Christmas card Nick Clegg and Miriam González Durántez will be sending out this year:

Clegg family Xmas card 2013

The London Evening Standard explains:

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LibLink: Richard Reeves – Have yourself a merry liberal Christmas

Over at the CentreForum blog, the liberal think-tank’s associate director, Richard Reeves, takes a look at the “communitarian dream” that is Christmas through a liberal lens:

Christmas combines in one package a number of elements that make us bristle. Religion, especially of an organised variety. Tradition for the sake of itself. The insanity of present buying. And semi-tyrannical familial expectations. … One liberal reaction to all this is to simply grin and bear it. … But bristling and bearing won’t really do. Liberal hostility to faith, family, community and tradition is well founded; they can all inhibit individual freedom. But the

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Happy Christmas!


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Last reminder! LibDemVoice Xmas Drinks, Monday 17th December

Christmas treeA final reminder that tomorrow, Monday 17th December, all LibDemVoice readers are invited to join us for festive drinks at 5pm in London, followed by (for those who’re able) Steve Richards’ Rock ‘n Roll Politics Christmas Special.

You can sign up for drinks on our Facebook page here, or via FlockTogether here — you’ll find the venue of the pub there.

There are a handful of tickets still left for Steve’s show — you can buy them here. Premiered at this year’s Edinburgh Festival, where it …

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Nick Clegg’s festive card: “Merry Christmas”

Just in case you’re not one of the lucky ones to receive your own signed copy this year (I’m still waiting for mine), here’s Nick Clegg’s choice of Christmas card this year…

Here’s what the Guardian has to say about it (yes, really, the paper dedicated a large feature to the leaders’ choices of Christmas cards):

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Lib Dem Bloggers’ Christmas stocking fillers… Part IV

What presents are you looking forward to giving or receiving this year? That’s the question LDV posed to a group of Lib Dem bloggers. All this week we’re revealing what they told us, with link-throughs to Amazon for your shopping convenience (and ‘cos the referral fees help support LibDemVoice: so get clicking and ordering). Part I is available here; Part II here; and Part III here. In part three, our fourth trio of bloggers – Jonathan Calder, Caron Lindsay, and Mark Pack – give us the low-down on their Xmas faves…

Jonathan Calder

It is impossible to dislike

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And it’s a happy Christmas from the Clegg family

The Guardian yesterday compared the Christmas cards sent by the leaders of the three main parties, so we thought LDV readers might appreciate seeing the festive missive despatched from Nick Clegg to those lucky people who’re on his list.

Here’s what The Times had to say about it:

…Nick Clegg’s card, drawn by his sons Antonio, 8, and Alberto, 5, is so touchy-feely and brimming with yuletide innocence that one worries it might be delivered with a free hug from the Liberal Democrat leader himself. Is the man in the red suit Uncle Vince?

“It is very sweet,” mused Mr

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Should all fun events in December have to include “Christmas” in their title?

That would seem a pretty far-fetched demand. But what else to make of the complaints from Labour councillor and Methodist Rev Paul Flowers?

Bradford Council has been involved in organising and/or publicising a large number of events this year which feature Christmas, as shown by these examples:

  • German Christmas Market
  • Christmas Light Switch On Events
  • Victorian Christmas Market
  • Bradford Christmas Street Market

There’s also the event called “Midwinter Medieval Celebration”.

Clearly Bradford isn’t banishing Christmas, but should it have to stick Christmas in the name of all events?

Well, Rev Paul Flowers has complained (in the Daily Mail):

Why, oh why, must they now resort to the stupidity

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Lib Dem Bloggers Christmas stocking fillers … Part I

If you could choose up to three items for your Christmas stocking, what would they be? That was the question LDV posed to a group of Lib Dem bloggers. And over the next two days we’ll reveal what they told us, with all their choices added to the Amazon carousel widget featured on our home-page, referral fees from which will help support Lib Dem Voice: so get clicking and ordering. In part one, four bloggers – Jennie Rigg, Millennium Elephant, Mark Pack and Alex Foster – give us the low-down on their Xmas faves.

Jennie Rigg

1) The Very Sexy …

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