Apologies for that little breakette. I got overwhelmed by Christmas spirit, hem hem. So. The true meaning of Christmas. Regular readers will know that I am a big fan of Terry Pratchett’s writing, and I have recently been reading his Hogfather, a novel which is about Christmas (for, as Mr Pratchett would say, a given value of Christmas). Within the novel Mr Pratchett theorises that the Hogfather, a sort of Father Christmas figure, originated with a form of sacrifice; his traditional red and white clothing harks back to blood on the snow, and his gift-giving is a folk memory of sacrifice, when the sacrificial beast (or tree, or even human) would give its life for the life of the tribe and the return of the sun.

Sacrifice figures in our Christmas today, of course. The Christian story is a myth of sacrifice, and many Christmas carols refer to it. And the ritual of choosing a tree, bedecking it beautifully and putting it at the heart of the celebrations for a couple of weeks before chucking it out to die is a memento of the old days of choosing a “King” who would be honoured, feted, bedecked and then killed to ensure the fertility of the crops.

More tomorrow. I promise!