Sunday, 17 December 2017

#ChristmasCarols & Seasonal Songs: We Wish You A Merry Christmas

Daily Constitutional Editor and Rock'n'Roll London Guide Adam takes a listen to some Christmas music and looks for London connections…

Picture the scene.

It's Christmas Eve. There's a knock at the door. You answer.

It's Blue Badge Guide Rex Osborn from London Walks.

What does he want?

Figgy pudding. 

That's what 'e wants.

Right here. Right NOW

"For me the carol which best says Christmas," says Rex, "and always stirs me, is WE WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS.

It has a stridency about it which is pure Yuletide. It is about a group of carol singers who descend on somebody's house and without so much as a by-your-leave start singing outside. They wish the residents a loud MERRY CHRISTMAS with an implied "whether you like it or not".

With all the grasping greed and unwholesome expectation that comes out at this time of year they say "Give us a figgy pudding!" - There is no attempt at a "please" there. It is just a straightforward materialistic demand. The demand is repeated, the tension mounts and they move on to demanding alcohol in the form of "a cup of good cheer".

Then they follow this up with that hint of menace that pervades our shopping streets during the so-called "season of goodwill" by singing "we won't go until we get some!" At the end of this verse, just so we understand that Christmas is not a time of empty threats, the pudding with booze demand is made very real to us with the phrase "So! Bring it out here!"

The last verse is all about being possessive during the festival period. The figgy pudding is claimed and appropriated with "we all like OUR figgy pudding". It is not YOUR figgy pudding any more - Christmas makes it OUR figgy pudding.

It is a carol so perfectly apposite that every December it makes my eyes watery and my fists clench.

Cheers Rex!

Two things to add, inspired by your outstanding critique of that old Christmas classic…

Why "Merry" Christmas? Here's a lively analysis from the folks at Mental Floss

Secondly… figgy pudding? Does anyone still make figgy pudding?

Well Bob Dylan does. And that's good enough for me.

(Dylan's relationship with London, as regular Daily Constitutionalists will know, goes all the way back to 1962 – click here for an archive Bob Dylan post.)

In his memorable Theme Time Radio Hour series, Bob paused to do a seasonal Christmas Special.

"This show," he growled, "is going out in England. So for the duration, every time I say the words humor, favor or color, I'll be adding an extra 'U'"

He also treated us to his recipe for figgy pudding! Over to the man himself…

"Earlier in the show, I told you to go get a pencil. Well, you’re all going to use it now. I got a lot of letters about this. Here's my recipe for Figgy Pudding. I like it served with heated golden syrup topping, and a generous pour of custard – makes me hungry just talking about it. My engineer Tex Carbone likes vanilla ice cream on it; I don't understand that at all…

• 4 oz. of plain flour
• Pinch of salt – just a pinch!
• 4 oz. bread crumbs
• 4 oz. shredded suet
• 1 teaspoon mixed spice
• 1 teaspoon baking powder
• 3 oz. dark soft brown sugar
• 8 oz. chopped dried figs
• Finely grated rind & the juice of 1 lemon
• 2 tablespoons milk
• 2 beaten eggs

Sift salt and flour together, then mix with the remaining dry ingredients. Add the figs, lemon rind and juice, milk, and beaten eggs. Beat well. Mixture should have a soft dropping consistency. Put into a greased 2 pint pudding basin, cover securely and steam for 3 hours."

For one night only: Rex Osborn & Bob Dylan on the same bill, launching The Daily Constitutional's Christmas Music series.

I indeed wish you a very MerryAND a Happy – Christmas.

Tomorrow… Little Donkey in Denmark Street

Last week I asked London Walkers & London Walks Guides to pick their favourite seasonal music. Here's the finished playlist…

Christmas 2017 With London Walks…

On Christmas Day there are TWO London Walks: 

Walk up an appetite with The Christmas Morning 1660 Walk – meet at 11:00a.m by the big tree in Trafalgar Square

Walk off the pudding with The Christmas Day Charles Dickens Walk – meet by the big tree in Trafalgar Square at 2:00pm

A London Walk costs £10 – £8 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at

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