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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Bmag Dec 4th 2012 - Christmas music

Warning: the following column may contain traces of Wham! To mark my 20th Christmas on ABC Radio, I’m going to share with you the four key lessons I’ve learned about broadcasting at this time of year. You won’t agree with all four. You may not agree with any of them. But in order to avoid vigorously hand-written letters from well-meaning arguably-traditional listeners, I do my best to comply with the following:

Firstly, don’t talk about Christmas until December. That is, unless you’re joining the chorus of disapproval about the shops putting out their decorations too early. (What I love about the annual “it’s not Christmas yet” Talkback-101 are the people who get riled in October or November because they’ve just noticed the trees and baubles for sale at their local department store. Try August!)

Secondly, never shorten Christmas to Xmas. Not that this is a problem when you’re speaking on the radio, but as soon as you write Xmas on social media, in a Christmas card, on the net or in an email, expect to be criticised. (Similarly, try never to write or say the word “kids” – “Dear Mr Howson, a kid is a baby goat.”)

Thirdly, Christmas is Christmas. Christmas is not “the holiday season”. I know that if I start wishing my radio guests and listeners “happy holidays”, I can expect letters. Throwing in the odd “and Happy Chanukah” seems to go down well – no complaints so far – just as “Happy Eid” at the end of Ramadan never attracts listener complaints. So just say what it is (Christmas, Chanukah) instead of trying to say nothing (Happy Holidays).

But the number one lesson I’ve learned from 20 years of Christmas broadcasting on the ABC, is that a carol can be a song but not all songs are carols. Rudolf, the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Jingle Bells are not carols. They are songs. O Come, All Ye Faithful is a carol. Fair enough, too, I’m not going to disagree. For all that, I do love Christmas.

As one of my Twitter followers @NikitaBombita said the other day: “Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year. I will forever be a child a Christmas. A child who drinks beer at Christmas.” I think that will be my motto this year! My Christmas playlist Apart from the booze and food, and being with family and friends, and just watching children’s faces, I also derive much joy from playing Christmas songs (both on the radio and at home). So I’ve come up with a list of my all-time favourites.

These are the songs I wait for all year! Expect to hear the following on 612 Breakfast over the next few weeks: Band Aid Do They Know It’s Christmas?, The Muppets It Feels Like Christmas, Michael Crawford O Holy Night, Chris Rea Driving Home for Christmas, Louis Armstrong Is That You Santa Claus?, Tim Minchin Drinking White Wine in the Sun, The Andy McDonell Contraption Xmas in Scarborough (his spelling, not mine!) and Wham Last Christmas! (Hey, at least there’s no Nickelback in that list!)

And finally, here’s something you might not know about Christmas. Brisbane Riverside Lions Club helps Santa write to South East Queensland children. Applications for letters close on 12 December. It costs just $3, with the money going to research for juvenile diabetes and children’s cancer. Find out more at

The numbers game

From the last issue of bmag (20 November), several readers correctly answered the homework question. Andrew Kopittke was the first to point out the signs on Oxley Road (as you approach the Ipswich Motorway) say M2 instead of M7. Andrew emailed: “I used to live just near that sign and saw it lots and never realised it was wrong!”

And Katherine May responded to my pointing out the time/date combination of 8.09 on 10/11/12: “I had to share my awesome set of numbers. My birthday is 10/09/1981. I can add up the date of my birthday to get my age (eg 10+9+12=31). I’ll never have problems figuring out how old I am!” Katherine, and others who share this obsession with number patterns, I hope you have special plans for 12.12 on 12/12/12 next week! We won’t see a perfect set of numbers like that until 1 January 2101!

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