My Most Memorable Christmas: MPs And Peers Reflect On Their Favourite Festive Moments
Snow covered landscape near Aberystwyth Ceredigion Wales UK on Christmas Day 2010. Credit: Alamy
From surprise sledging to war-time gifts, family and community rallying to help one another through difficult times, our politicians share some touching tales from years gone by. Compiled by Kate Proctor.
Lord Cormack, Conservative peer and life president of The House
Christmas has always been my red letter season. Whenever I reflect on a fairly long life, my mind becomes a kaleidoscope of happy Christmas memories. As I lay in bed, suffering from some childhood ailment, in 1944, my father constructed a D-Day scene of little match box boats and flimsy aeroplanes. By tugging a couple of strings I could, to my own entire satisfaction, re-enact D-Day. Three years later I woke on Christmas morning to find my first bicycle at the foot of the bed. In 1953 my favourite gift was The Ascent of Everest – news of which had made even Coronation Day extra special.
In due course Christmas revolved around our sons. I will never forget a three-year-old embarrassing his church warden father as the vicar was carefully explaining the Christmas crib. Suddenly a piercing voice broke the silence: “Where is God?” And then came the third generation leaving mince pies for Father Christmas and tobogganing down the fields on the one really white Christmas of their childhood. And I remember one Christmas Eve when I was asked by a curious six-year-old granddaughter, “What did your grannies and grandpas do at Christmas?” They were all born in the very early 1880s and their favourite childhood tales were always of Christmas: putting up the Christmas tree on Christmas Eve, making sure every doorway had a sprig of mistletoe above it and speculating on the size of the goose and plum pudding.
Christine Jardine, Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West and her party's Treasury spokesperson
It was supposed to be a romantic Christmas for two by the fireside in a cosy cabin on the banks of one of Scotland’s bonniest lochs. For the most part, it was. Me and my husband Calum spent Christmas Eve huddled up watching TV and on Christmas morning took the dogs for a walk along the waterside before tucking into lunch. It even snowed.
But by Boxing Day, I was beginning to suffer a wee bit from Fear of Missing Out. I had phoned my mum on Christmas morning to discover that the usual family chaos was in full flow, and all I could hear was laughter.
Since dad died, Christmas Day had been bittersweet for us all, and not being there had heightened my feeling of loss. That lasted only until my mobile phone rang.
Mum was in the nearby village with both my sisters, brother-in-law, nephew and a second carload of relatives. Calum just laughed and headed out to collect them – and all the leftovers they had brought. We had a fantastic day and evening. As they were leaving my Mum hugged me, laughed, and said: “You honestly thought you could have Christmas without us?”
It was the last time the thought ever crossed my mind.
Dr Rosena Allin-Khan, Labour MP for Tooting and shadow cabinet member for mental health
We have a Christmas tradition in our family to stick on our festive onesies on Christmas Eve to get the girls excited for the big day. My husband is Welsh, and we try to spend Christmas with his family as much as possible. A few years ago, when our girls were very young, we set off on a late-night drive to Wales to see our family, hoping it would mean that our daughters would go straight to bed as soon as we got there.
The girls were dressed as a penguin and a reindeer. I decided to do the same and wore my polar bear onesie. Only, I totally forgot when we stopped off at the M4 services for a break. Walking around, getting some snacks, we couldn’t work out why everyone was staring. The realisation sunk in: we looked like a full family of polar animals.
While I’m glad to say to say the Christmas onesie tradition lives on in my family (this year’s choices are still a surprise for the girls), we haven’t paraded our outfits in motorway services since.
Nickie Aiken, Conservative MP for Cities of London and Westminster
The year 2010 stands out because of the heavy snow that fell across the country that year. In fact, that December was the coldest since Met Office records began 100 years earlier. My children, then aged six and four, had never experienced such heavy snow before. Being brought up in central London, it’s a rare occasion that we enjoy witnessing snowflakes falling and when we do it rarely settles.
That year we were staying with my parents in Wales. The snow had begun as we drove from London, falling increasingly heavier the further we left the capital. We arrived just in time, as it was obvious we would not have been able to travel if we’d left it any later. When we awoke the next morning the back garden looked as if it was covered by a white duvet.
There was nothing for it but to introduce the children to sledging! I’m from a small village, St Fagans, just outside Cardiff which sits on a hill, providing excellent opportunities for novices. We had a ball throughout our stay going out every day to slide down the hill. Each time the children became more confident and mum became more nervous. The snow lasted a week but the memories will remain with me forever.
Lord Collins of Highbury, Labour peer and shadow deputy leader of the Lords
I have had many memorable Christmas Days but I suspect that the one which will stay in my memory more than most was last year, when it was cancelled. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a Scrooge-like character who thinks Christmas is humbug. I am a devout humanist who loves midnight mass. My husband loves tradition too, and every year our small home becomes like a Father Christmas grotto.
Last year we had long given up on our plans to visit my husband Rafael’s family in Spain but had hoped to meet up with my family, and on Christmas Day itself had planned lunch in our local pub. With none of this allowed, it really did feel like Christmas was cancelled, but somehow Rafael managed to get a turkey because of an uncollected order from our local butcher. Thinking of absent friends, especially those living alone, we then set up a Zoom party, resulting in us seeing and talking with more people than we have ever done in a single day.
But to be honest, the best outcome of that Christmas was the joint present to ourselves – our lockdown miniature dachshund Federica, who as you can see has to put up with my husband’s eagerness to put everyone in Santa outfits!
Hannah Bardell, SNP MP for Livingston and spokesperson on consular affairs
In the face of crisis, the people of Livingston, West Lothian and beyond opened their hearts and their pockets to support the workers of local manufacturing firm Kaiam, who had been left in fear of having no job and no pay before Christmas in 2018.
When the going gets tough, Livingston gets organised!
Even though it was the run-up to Christmas and most people were busy getting their own homes and families ready for the festive period, within an hour of opening, the Kaiam community hub was stacked full of toys, hundreds of pounds of vouchers and cash, gift boxes, selection boxes and food.
We really saw the true Christmas spirit in action when members of the community needed it most.
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