Screw it, let's go back to Christmas Day 1998

A fun nostalgia trip for old times' sake

Screw it, let's go back to Christmas Day 1998
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Been thinking about my kids’ Christmases compared to ours: what we do differently, and what remains the same. Probably because I am trying to break the cycle of having to provide a huge present mountain for my kids on Christmas morning. (A lot of that involves me anxiously putting things in my Amazon basket and then taking them out again.) But also, I’m feeling quite old at the moment.

One thing that has drastically changed is the TV situation. My daughter was writing Christmas cards for her friends earlier this week when I decided I had to explain this to her:

‘We used to get a magazine. It had everything in it that was on the telly over Christmas.’

‘Did you?’

‘Yeah, we used to circle everything we wanted to watch.’


She is clearly humouring me, but for some reason, I am overcome with the need for her to understand exactly how this worked.

‘You couldn’t just watch anything on demand back then,’ Chris pipes up, from the living room, where he is sitting on the floor having his patience sorely tested by our son. Son has a new magic kit, and he wants to learn a trick, but he also doesn’t want anyone to teach it to him, making the whole thing needlessly stressful. ‘I waited all year to watch some of these films.’

‘I haven’t got enough cards,’ my daughter says, frowning.

‘Maybe there’s some in the box with all the tags. I’ve found a website that tells you everything that’s ever been on the TV at Christmas, look! I’ll look up 1998. I was the same age as you, then.’

Daughter finds five more cards in the box with all the tags and ribbons. Not all of them have envelopes. ‘How old was Daddy in 1998?’


‘Wow, you were double digits but he was a teenager.’

‘Yeah but we didn’t know each other then.’ Not this again, I can’t take any more age gap discourse. ‘Ooh, Celebrate Christmas with Lesley Garratt, Charlotte Church and Ladysmith Black Mambazo!’

‘Daddy, it’s not working.’ Son, who cares about 1998 television even less than his sister, is on the verge of a small breakdown.

‘You have to do it quickly so they can’t see the ball in the cup.’

‘I DID do it quickly!’

‘Aw, the Chuckle Brothers!’ I say, genuinely excited.

‘The what brothers? Have we got any more envelopes?’

Oh no. I’ve failed them.

The what brothers. It’s weird, isn’t it? How quickly huge figures from our past become irrelevant. (Or worse, disgraced - I found a TV listing for Rolf Harris’s Animal Hospital and my initial reaction was ‘Aw, I loved that!’ and then my instant follow-up reaction was ‘Oh no, I forgot he was a scumbag.’)

The Chuckle Brothers mean absolutely nothing to my kids. For some reason, this point is sticking in my head. Everything that we see as hugely popular and relevant will eventually fade away. I can practically feel myself crumbling into dust as we speak.

I’m going to a dark place again. Screw it! It’s my day off, I’ve just cleaned the house from top to bottom, and the Christmas tree lights are twinkling. Let’s go back in time to 1998, when I sat, cross-legged, in front of the TV on Christmas Day.

I can’t watch everything because it just doesn’t exist anymore. But some kind soul has uploaded BBC continuity clips from Christmas Day and I like this more than the actual programs. It’s like a treasure trove of memories. This is the kind of stuff that would rumble along in the background while we played with our new toys (me) poked fun at each other (my sisters) and had minor arguments about the timing of the roast dinner (my parents).

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I genuinely love this. I love that I can see what came on after the credits of Babe (it’s the full music video for Perfect Day, for some reason. Not sure if that’s accurate but it did make me feel oddly sad and, I don’t know, yearny, like part of me longs to go back and be innocently mesmerised by boy bands wrapped in silver foil.

Also, Nicholas Lyndhurst and Neil Morrisey. Just everywhere, on everything. All the time. They basically lived in our house.

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There is also, shockingly, an EastEnders double bill which we would have had to watch for Mum. According to the listing, at 5.25pm, Grant finally opens up to his brother, and Bianca is taken by surprise. Later, at 8.30, Grant and Bianca are forced to put aside their differences, probably because one of them did a murder or something.

But what I really want to talk about is this. Top of the Pops on Christmas Day 1998 is, frankly, excellent. Opening with Viva Forever by the Spice Girls, which I sang, sadly, over the grave of my dead cat the day that she died. I had a Spice Girls song for every situation.

Blimey. Childhood is complicated.

Image Source. I, as a thirty-five year old woman, want to wear Kate Thornton’s exact outfit, including the body glitter.

B*Witchd are also on Top of the Pops. Again, this makes me yearny. I want to go back to when four Irish girls in matching denim outfits can obviously mime a deceptively not-innocent song about treehouses and shout out phrases like ‘what are you like?’ while circling around a man playing the fiddle as though they are preparing to ritually sacrifice him.

This is followed by a performance of ‘Horny’ by Mousee T. vs. Hot & Juicy in which they instruct a room full of teens/young adults to chant ‘I’m horny!’ over and over again.

Also featured:

  • A very sincere cover of ‘Especially for You’ by Denise Van Outen & Johnny Vaughan
  • A very bouncy, shouty version of ‘Vindaloo’ which is probably offensive but I can’t tell for sure because I lost interest and wandered off
  • An excruciatingly long performance by Boyzone in which they stand on a lazy susan, slowly rotating in the middle of the crowd, not making eye contact with anyone
  • A banging rendition of ‘My Heart Will Go On’ by Celine Dion

And, last but not least, Cher. What a good year for pop music.

There is also a strangely defensive documentary on the popularity of the Teletubbies, which I just watched in the bath. Literally had no idea that the Teletubbies were so controversial. And, this excellent triple bill on ITV that takes a very dark turn:

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What is the point of all this? There isn’t one, really. Christmas feels weird to me this year. I think for a lot of people it’s a bit loaded. It comes with a weird sense of loss. And a little bit of grief. Whether for people or times gone by, or, as I’m finding as my kid get older, a kind of advanced grief for things I’m going to miss in the future. It all gets a bit much, doesn’t it? Lovely and sad all at once. And inextricably linked to the past. You can’t help but look back over the years, I guess.

Anyway. Thanks for diving into the past with me. I enjoyed that. Although I do miss all the body glitter, spiky hair, and earnest pop music, I am quite glad to be in this moment right now, actually. I do think it’s better. Mostly.

Merry Christmas, whatever you’re doing. I hope you will be warm, safe, healthy, and with people you love. See you next week when I’ll be attempting to round up the best things of the year without completely losing my mind. <3