It's Saint Nicholas Day and Songs of Praise has festive features and carols galore from across the country.
Browse content similar to 06/12/2015. Check below for episodes and series from the same categories and more!
Well, whether you call him Father Christmas,
Santa Claus or Kris Kringle,
they're all names for one man - St Nicholas.
And today, December the 6th, well, this is his special day,
and I'm here in York to find out how this fourth-century bishop,
known for his secret gift of giving,
has become the figure we all know and love.
God bless you all.
I've come to Gloucester Cathedral to meet an artist who's
overcome huge obstacles and is now using his painting skills
to express the true meaning of Christmas.
# So here it is Merry Christmas... #
Don't worry, don't worry,
you've not tuned in accidentally to an old edition of Top Of The Pops.
I'm Noddy Holder and I've come to York, too, to uncover
the origins of one of our best-loved and famous carols.
# O tidings of comfort and joy... #
As Christmas is fast approaching,
we'll be singing some great festive favourites,
and there'll also be a stunning performance
of Gabriel's Message by The Swingle Singers.
And we begin with an Advent hymn
that expresses that sense of hope this season is all about.
Have you ever wondered why we hang our Christmas stockings up
and find a chocolate coin or two inside, if we're lucky?
Well, this is just one of the traditions
that started with St Nicholas.
His name has been squashed and squeezed through
a variety of languages until it became...Santa Claus.
Have no fear, St Nicholas is here!
Canon Jim Rosenthal is founder of the International St Nicholas Society.
I'm St Nicholas. Now, what's your names?
Sporting the robes of this fourth-century bishop and saint,
he's determined we discover the Christian roots of Santa Claus.
Canon Jim is instrumental in the St Nicholas Festival in Canterbury.
But today I'm meeting him at York Minster,
which has a whole chapel dedicated to the saint he so admires.
St Nicholas was a very rich man.
His parents died at an early age,
leaving him a lot of money.
After training for the priesthood,
he realised that people were suffering
and he decided to give his money away.
And he did it in gradual ways and through his legends,
but his most famous legend is that of the three bags of gold coins.
He heard of a man who had three daughters that were going to
be sold into slavery because he had no money for their dowries.
So he took it upon himself, late at night, to give money to them secretly.
And he took these coins, each on a different night,
put them through the chimney or the window - legend says both -
and they fell into the Christmas...
what we can now call Christmas stockings, and finally
the father says, "I wonder who's doing this great deed of generosity for us?"
and he stays up one night and he finds that it's Nicholas.
Nicholas says, "Don't say anything,
"because I'm doing this because Jesus wants me to do it
"as his priest and I can afford to do it."
Why is St Nicholas so important to you?
Why are you so passionate about him?
Because I believe St Nicholas was a walking gospel person.
He was the beatitude made flesh.
All the things that Jesus asked us to do in the Gospels -
to be kind, to be generous, compassionate -
he was all those things. Because the world is hurting
and we have an answer, and this man, Nicholas, can help bring that.
He's not the answer but can help lead us to the answer in Bethlehem.
And, of course, that is the true gift of Christmas, the generosity of God.
Oh, I think I've found the warmest spot on the market.
Now, one of the most well-loved
and recognisable carols is the classic God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.
Noddy Holder, who knows a thing or two about a classic Christmas song,
came here to York to find out about the story behind it.
# So here it is Merry Christmas
# Everybody's having fun...#
Well, I suppose you already know that I love Christmas.
But what you probably don't know is that God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
is the only carol that features in Dickens's classic Christmas story.
# God bless you merry gentlemen, may nothing you dismay. #
And also you might not know that it dates back
as far as the 16th century.
It's my favourite carol too and I want to find out how it came about,
so I'm going to step back in time
into the carefully-restored medieval Barley Hall
to meet conductor, choral director and Christmas carol expert Jeremy Summerly.
I was surprised that God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen was so old.
Well, it's old in that it's medieval, but it's Mediterranean.
That you may not know.
And it's a Mediterranean folk tune.
It's the angel talking to the shepherds on the Palestinian hills,
and the angel is going, "God rest ye merry, gentlemen."
In other words, rest - stay - merry - happy. Don't panic. It's all right.
Christ has been born. That's what it means.
But what happens is the Victorians misplaced the comma.
God rest you - comma - merry gentlemen.
-And, actually, this is what Dickens picks up.
And he changes it even more than that because he goes,
"God bless you, merry gentleMAN."
Aimed at Scrooge, the singular gentleman.
Completely changing the meaning
because it's got nothing to do with the shepherds,
the birth of Christ any more.
HE PLAYS THE TUNE
It's a catchy melody and it's a catchy tune,
but it's not... It doesn't sound like a folk tune to me.
The version you know is quite foursquare
but originally when it was a medieval, Mediterranean tune,
I imagine it would have had very little resemblance to the tune you know now.
But it's become popular because we've kind of Englished it up.
Do you know what I mean? It's the same way we do with our food.
We don't take any nonsense, the English, though, do we?
We think we are the best and that's the way it should be.
You could put it like that. I couldn't possibly comment!
# God rest ye merry gentlemen
# Let nothing you dismay
# Remember Christ our saviour
# Was born on Christmas day... #
During the Reformation, Christmas celebrations
and Christmas carols were banned.
It was due in part to the waits bands of Yorkshire
that these traditions were kept alive.
'Waits bands were led by important locals or council leaders
'and would sing outside churches, pubs and even homes.'
Yeah, you guys sound great.
Fantastic. What happened to waits bands?
Why don't we see them around any more?
Well, they were professional players
and they were a show of pomp and wealth for the city.
As time went on and music became more popular and more common
and more people played instruments,
so the cities dispensed with paying for music and, lo and behold,
the waits disappeared, really.
How important is it for you to keep on the tradition of waits bands?
Well, we have a fascination with the music of the 14th, 15th, 16th centuries
and we really like to broadcast and carry on tradition.
I find that although I love the traditional carol services
with the organ and the traditional Christmas carols,
to sing with these guys on these original instruments...
And it's such a spirited sound that for me, that's the true spirit of Christmas.
Well, I'd love to hear a few more bars. Go for it.
# Oh, tidings of comfort and joy
# Comfort and joy
# Oh, tidings of comfort and joy. #
St Nicholas, who we are celebrating today,
really believed so strongly in giving,
especially to those most in need.
And in the spirit of St Nick, there's a charity right here in York
that connects those who want to give to those who need their help.
Rob Ainsworth is the coordinator of the charity named The Besom,
a reference to an old-fashioned broom
with the aim of sweeping away suffering.
-Oh, that looks gorgeous.
-Something to warm you up.
-I'm so happy. That's why you got me coming over.
So just tell me, what exactly is the Besom project?
Essentially, the Besom is a bridge
between people in the church who have
and want to give and people who are in need.
We hold relationships with social workers and health visitors
and we match up people who have things and time and money to give.
They realise that as Christians we should be giving to people,
but they just don't know how to.
They don't know where people live, they don't know how they can help,
they are concerned that their gifts might be abused, things like that.
So our vision, really, is to equip the church to serve the poor,
as Jesus did.
One group that is helping is York's Vineyard Church,
whose volunteers are busy preparing Christmas hampers.
This one is Diane's and that one is Tracy's.
So this one is an 18 month-old and also a few little boys.
-I love the look of all of this.
It's completely luxurious.
I've seen some really good quality product and lots of chocolate.
Well, we like to be really generous.
We really feel like God has been really generous with his love to us
and we just want to be generous with people in the community.
This has got to be over-brimming.
'The essence of the project is to build relationships
'so that specific needs could be met through gifts or practical help.'
A few weeks ago I was introduced to someone with Rob from Besom
because we thought she wanted help with decorating,
but actually what she really needed was someone
who would look after her children whilst she decorated.
So that's what I've been doing.
I've been looking after the children
while she gets on and we've become good friends.
And it's just nice to be able to meet people's actual needs
and not try and force something on them.
What do you personally get out of this?
I have really experienced a great blessing from God.
-You know, he healed me in an amazing way.
-What was wrong with you?
I suffered from all kinds of symptoms as a result of quite
a lot of an abusive childhood and stuff like that,
so quite a lot of post-traumatic stress symptoms.
How different are you now to what you were before?
On the outside I probably look the same,
but inside it's just a phenomenal difference that Jesus has made.
Having been through a lot of dark times myself,
some of this is like taking some light into people's lives
where it might be quite dark for them. And that's what we want to do,
to shine a light into people's lives.
The one gift that's always welcome at Christmas,
particularly in my household, is chocolate.
And York is renowned for its chocolatiers.
Now, the Rowntree's and the Terry's,
they were famous families from the city and, as Quakers,
they were really against the evils of alcohol, so instead they turned
to making chocolate, which was great because that's a gift for everybody.
And I'm so glad they did because look at this gorgeous array of chocolates.
-My mouth is watering.
-Would you like to try one?
I think I actually would, thank you. That one's got my name on it.
And talking about wonderful gifts,
our next piece of music is about an incredible gift, the gift of life.
The news given to Mary by the angel Gabriel.
"Eat me," it says.
# Gloria, gloria, gloria, gloria
# The angel Gabriel from heaven came
# His wings as drifted snow, his eyes as flame
# "All hail" said he "thou lowly maiden Mary
# "Most highly favoured lady"
# Gloria, gloria, gloria
# Gloria, gloria
# "For know the blessed mother thou shalt be
# "All generations laud and honour thee
# "Thy son shall be Emmanuel by seers foretold
# "Most highly favoured lady"
# Then gentle Mary meekly bowed her head
# "To me, be as it pleaseth God" she said
# "My soul shall laud and magnify his holy name"
# Most highly favoured lady
# Of her Emmanuel, the Christ was born
# In Bethlehem all on a Christmas morn
# And Christian folk throughout the world will ever say
# Most highly favoured lady
# Gloria, gloria
# Gloria, gloria, gloria
# Gloria. #
Would it surprise you to know
that a third of children in this country didn't realise that Christmas
was about the birth of Christ?
Well, Pam's been to Gloucester Cathedral to find out
about an art initiative aimed at raising awareness,
both about disability and the true message of Christmas.
OK, I admit it, I'm terrible at drawing.
But can you imagine how difficult it would be to create anything
artistically if you were paralysed from the neck down?
That disability didn't stop John Clayton from learning to paint,
and now his pictures are made into cards
which are sold by the Mouth And Foot Painting Artists,
a partnership which helps people like John sell their work.
And this year they have come up with a unique idea for raising
awareness of the Christmas story.
They are unveiling a new work of art at Gloucester Cathedral -
a nativity scene based on one of John's designs
and created by members of a local youth group.
John has been paralysed from the neck down
since a motorbike accident 37 years ago, when he was just 17.
Because of the severity of my accident,
I couldn't do a lot in the gymnasium
so I was acquainted to a canvas and a paintbrush, basically.
I was asked to just paint an image and I just painted a car,
or what I thought was a car.
A two-year-old could have done a better job, but anyway.
I threw the brush down in disgust and that was that.
But a few months later, John picked up a paint brush again and
this time he persevered and discovered he had a natural talent.
So was it a turning point to find that you could still do something so well?
It was tremendous.
The ability and self-worth that you got from actually producing
something in front of you was... it was life-changing.
There's no doubt about it.
John's designs are sold all over the world.
It's one of his best-selling cards
that's been chosen for display in the cathedral.
But it's not John doing the painting.
Young people from the Stonehouse Youth Club have picked up their brushes.
Leave that like that and go back with more. How are you getting on?
'After the initial shock of seeing me, basically, in a wheelchair -
'because let's face it, youngsters,
'they don't see many wheelchair people,
'never mind those that paint with their mouth as well.'
I think we need to sort the lips out because they are a bit red.
'I'd like to think that from meeting me, the experience...
'It's bringing down the barriers of disability as well, which is important.'
-You see, they've got the yellow coming through as well.
With my paintings, I wanted to just be a little prompt and reminder
to the many that actually do
look at Christmas as the birth of Christ and hope that it will be
a gentle reminder of what, really, it's all about.
Nice big smiles.
What did you think of their artwork?
To sit down and reconstruct on such a large scale was a huge feat of art.
I think it's a good symbol because it reminds people our age why
the true meaning of Christmas is not about just receiving presents.
I think this has brought our youth club together and it's kind of
taught us the real meaning of Christmas rather than what the media presents.
With the ceremony over, John is off to work on designs for next year.
-So, for you it's Christmas all year round, then?
-It is at my home.
-You should be very proud of yourself. It's great.
-I am proud.
THEY PLAY "SILENT NIGHT"
Well, that's just about it for this week.
Next time, the lovely Josie will be at home with Bake Off's very own Mary Berry
to talk about festive family memories and to bake a Christmas cake.
But for now, we end with a favourite carol
we can all join in with.