A recent report stated only around one-in-three schools now host a traditional school Nativity. Even then, more contemporary characters creep into the telling of the story. Apparently, pop stars, teenage icons and even (curiously) the likes of Sir Alan Sugar.
But where does tradition start and finish? The baby Jesus, the Wise Men and shepherds are all part of what we think of as the traditional Christmas story. But there are many more.
Christmas without Santa is for most people unthinkable. And then there is the reindeer, the holly, the Christmas tree, carol singing, mistletoe, Indiana Jones, Morecambe and Wise, the winter solstice, the robin, the turkey and of course, the exchange of Christmas gifts.
Dickensian figures also creep into the picture, with Mr Pickwick and, of course, Scrooge all associated with the idea of a traditional Christmas. Whether strictly relevant to the Christmas story is debatable, nevertheless they are now firmly established as Christmas favourites.
Christmas is all about tradition but displays a remarkable ability to adapt to the changes in society. Despite advancing years, I try to keep an open mind in a changing world.
I rarely use a glint and steel to light the fire, relying increasingly on those new-fangled friction matches. I have embraced technology in the kitchen and am happy with two minutes in the microwave porridge for breakfast. I even allow Yorkshire puddings to sit alongside beef on my dinner plate, instead of being served as a starter with onion gravy.
But some things should never change. Beer should be cask, cool not cold, ideally brown not amber, and decanted via a handpump. You should support your local football team, and you should give up your seat in a crowded train to the elderly.
When we first got married we had no telly (for several years) and habitually listened to “The Archers” on Radio Four. Not everyone’s cup of tea perhaps but you could miss 10 episodes or more and still pick up the storyline in a moment. Walter Gabriel, Joe Grundy and Peggy Archer were part of a world of safe constancy in a world of change.
Not any more. The story lines are constantly changing, actors come and go and rather than talking about the price of lambs at Felpersham market or the latest organic-growing techniques, we have a by-pass threatening to tear Brookfield farm apart, pushing poor David and Ruth to perhaps leave Ambridge forever. After Tony Archer’s accident, his son Tom has returned home to take over to find the Angus herd is mixed with Charolais by his sister’s dodgy lover. Worse Tom is now played by an actor who sounds like “Charlie”. Very confusing.
Pip Archer is played by a new actress making her appear to have leapt from stroppy teenager to mature woman with a wholly different voice. Carol Tregorran is back after 25 years, and Jennifer suspects she may have bumped off her late husband John. After Lizzy’s brief fling with Roy Tucker what now? In the wings we have the very devious Justin Elliott who is planning some mischief. The whole of Ambridge is in turmoil.
I feel my world has been cut adrift, and so those Christmas traditions provide some stability in a changing world. Turkey and roast potatoes for dinner. That never changes ... or so I thought. Apparently the girls have taken over cooking dinner and we are to have beef with all the best bits scraped off the bones, like they do in France (or rather on Masterchef).
And the roast spuds? Oh no, not them, too. Yep, they are being banished to history so we can “enjoy” duchess potatoes or potatoes “en chemise” whatever they are. Thick gravy? No, no, no! Apparently we are having some sort of jus or reduction.
This is getting difficult for me. If I get some mushy peas wiped across my plate with the back of a spoon, no roasted parsnips, and design means I can see more than 50% of my plate, leaving me rummaging around in the fridge for something to fill up on, there could be trouble