Music is a huge part of traditions. For myself and many others, Christmas is a time that music permeates: a time of year when the same songs pop back into the periphery (cue Mariah Carey’s defrosting TikTok). And for most people, there may only be a few songs that they listen to consistently throughout their lives, but we listen to the same Christmas songs every year. When you listen to these songs, you experience every Christmas you have ever experienced in your life and thus you become every person you have ever been at any point in your life, and it’s all just a big amalgamation of Christmases and associations and selfhood and traditions. For me, it also makes me think of certain people who I’ve always spent Christmas with, and I feel lucky to have a family-friends tradition that has dominated my feelings towards Christmas. 

My best friend’s birthday is Christmas Eve. Our parents have been best friends since we were month-old babies, having met at a post-natal group for new mums. When we were children, my best friend hated having her birthday so close to Christmas and attempted to change it to June 6th. But every year since I can remember, without fail (apart from the COVID years, when we took to Zoom), we’ve celebrated in almost the exact same way. We go to a local pub, not necessarily always the same one, but always one of the same three or four. As children we’d run around it, hide under tables; as we became teenagers, we’d sneak Prosecco from ice-bucket clad bottles on the table. On Christmas Eve, the same people have always been there, with some fluctuation throughout the years to include different friends and partners. But really, it has always been simply a lovely social festivity in a pub five minutes down the road, saturated with candles and fairy lights. 

After the pub we always head back to my best friend’s family home; we all live locally to one another and this house has held me more times than I can remember. Once there, the celebrations continue – there’s birthday cake, and many, many, drinks. And lots of singing. Sometimes there is karaoke in the living room (videos of this from years ago still haunt me), but most often the Christmas songs are blasted from the speakers in the kitchen and everyone, already drunk by 8pm, sings and dances to the carols, together, the carols that they have always sung. Then there comes a point in the night when the music suddenly switches from Christmas classics to 80s synth pop (to the delight of most of the parents there, who were young in the 80s). This has meant I’ve always associated these songs with Christmas. When we were fifteen, sixteen, seventeen, we’d sneak off for cigarettes using the excuse “we’re just going to the shop” (at 10 o’clock at night on Christmas Eve…) somehow it didn’t matter that our excuses were completely transparent, it was the one night a year when our families were all having too much fun to mind. We used to beg to be allowed to go to Midnight Mass, but were told “you’re too drunk, it’s disrespectful.” Oops. 

Music Makes The People 3: Christmas Specials Playlist

Throughout the years, we’ve never had a set playlist at these parties, which I really like – we tend to put songs on by way of general drunk shouting out requests, and I think this is more authentic. I’d rather it be this way than a set playlist. But the same songs always return, so I’ve done my best to try and build a little capsule of it. 

Songs(!) Of The Week: ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas – 1984 Version’ by Band Aid, and ‘Tainted Love’ by Soft Cell.

I’ve chosen TWO songs of the week this time as a Christmas bonus.

When I listen to ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’, it takes me straight back to the iconic scene in the Gavin and Stacey 2008 Christmas special, another piece of media that I consume every single Christmas period (at least three times). 

‘Tainted Love’ is the song which, for me, truly captures the essence of these Christmas Eves – when I think about this day throughout the years, this is the song I associate the most with it. The initial tune pounds in, so catchy and classic and it’s one of those songs that people don’t just sing the lyrics to, they sing the melody too. Everyone gets involved, clapping along. 


Overall, this vignette into Christmas Eve traditions in a small pocket of South-East London is just my own experience of the connectivity we can get through Christmas music, and how it can frame your own personal Christmas traditions. I have always looked forward to Christmas Eve more than Christmas Day. When I think of Christmas, I think of these celebrations of my best friend’s birthday, and simply the feeling of us all coming together as a big family made up of groups of friends. It’s about friendship; we are the same people we’ve always been, lucky enough to witness each other in all our different iterations: every old flame; every bad decision and all the good ones too; every laugh; cry; everything. It is beautiful to think that we’ve done the same thing every year since we can remember, and been the same people ever since, but different variations. We’ve evolved, we’ve gone to the same party being a child, being a teenager, being an adult, and the soundtrack to our lives has been the Christmas songs we play and sing to every year.