Miranda Hart’s festive traditions: Presents, practical jokes, and inflatable Santas…

Presents, practical jokes, inflatable Santas… Miranda Hart’s festive traditions may be reassuringly hilarious. But, as she reveals here, they can also be lifesavers.

I’m very grateful that YOU magazine has posed me a series of Christmas questions. It has not only given me a chance to acknowledge and relish the joyful traditions that I love, but at the end of this most bizarre and challenging of years, it has reminded me that there are still things of joy, goodness and fun around us.

It’s easy to get stuck in a negative spiral when we’re faced with daily doom and gloom. The way to break that is to seek out the good, the beautiful, the joyous, the lovely – it hasn’t gone away. I love what Hans Christian Andersen said: ‘The whole world is a series of miracles, but we’re so used to them, we call them ordinary.’ This year has given us the chance to name those things as miracles that we used to take for granted. In your face, Covid!

Miranda Hart
Jospeh Sinclair

A couple of years ago I finally understood the true meaning of joy. Happiness is circumstantial and fleeting. Joy is truer and deeper. Joy knows life is bittersweet; that you might be in grief, illness or disappointment but that within the day there will still be moments that make you smile. That is pure joy because it’s happening in the middle of your dark patch. As I answer these questions now, I will joyfully savour all they bring up. And, lovely reader, do join me if you wish; answer them yourself as a route to finding joy this Christmas.

The first thing I do every Christmas Day is…

smile. Sounds naff, but it’s true. I started it about 15 years ago when I realised I’d lost the childlike excitement of Christmas Day. So, to stop all the adult gripes and before the to-do list of the big day comes in, I just breathe and smile. And instantly feel better. In fact, I shall try that every day from now on. Mornings are not my forte.

The best Christmas present I ever got was…

a bed. And I gave it to myself! It’s the most expensive thing I’ve ever bought. It’s honestly like lying on a cloud crossed with a golden retriever puppy. Not that I have ever lain down on either.

The Christmas carol I can’t resist belting out whenever I hear it is…

‘Ding Dong Merrily on High’. I go for it on the ‘Gloria’ bit! Any wildlife within a ten-mile radius beware…

In my school nativity I was always…

Angel Gabriel. I think this was something to do with being tall, rather than looking angelic.

The present I always wanted but never got was…

a dog. I think my mum has always felt guilty about this. I asked every year until I was 35 then finally got one myself. And my dear best friend Peggy is still with me.

The best Hart family Christmas tradition is…

silliness. Practical jokes. Games, endless games. Dressing up. Massive inflatable Santas. The sillier the better. (PS I might have had quite a lot to do with this tradition.)

Other than family, my dream Christmas guests would be…

all my comedy heroes. Eric Morecambe, Joyce Grenfell, Victoria Wood, Peter Cook, Tony Hancock, Tommy Cooper. We would chat all things comedy, in particular the technical aspects of writing and performing it – that’s my favourite subject – and discover who they were behind closed doors. I hope we’d also laugh A LOT.

My favourite ever cracker joke is…

‘How does Good King Wenceslas like his pizzas? Deep pan, crisp and even.’ OK, it’s TERRIBLE! But there’s something satisfying about it.

My dream kiss under the mistletoe would be…

the one who accepts me, loves me despite all and encourages me and inspires me to freely be me. Aaaaah!

The Christmas movie I always have to watch is…

It’s a Wonderful Life. Obvious choice, but I love James Stewart (a fellow tall actor) and the message is very much on theme as regards to counting the everyday simple things and the people around us as the miracles they are. A brilliantly written film.

My favourite ever Christmas telly was…

Morecambe and Wise. I meet people in their 20s who don’t know their work. But for anyone over 40 they were Christmas and the absolute heroes of many comedians of my generation. It was very sad to lose Des O’Connor recently. He was the last key connection to ‘the boys’. It’s a true joy to see The Vicar of Dibley back on screen – a reminder of the character comedy inspired by that Morecambe and Wise era.

The Christmas track that is guaranteed to get me dancing is…

‘Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree’. It has always made me laugh for some reason. Which I am sure was not their intention on writing it – soz! But that’s why I did a blast of it in Miranda.

The person who does most of the cooking on Christmas Day will be…

a total team effort. It’s usually my mum but I’ll be earning my keep and shouldering the burden this year. I’ll be on carbs! Roast potatoes, bread sauce, parsnips.

The best Christmas advert this year was…

the trailer for my new show. What a cheap bit of self-advertising! But it was the one and only bit of work I did this year and I feel lucky to have done it when so many have lost their jobs. And I believe in the power of television to be a friend to people even more this year.

I like to go to church on Christmas Eve because…

I love the tradition, the beauty of the building, the candlelight, the singing. It is a place to be quiet, contemplative and to put up a prayer for all those things on my mind, for people who are hurting, the things I long for, the changes I want to make and, ultimately, to remember what Christmas is really about. It feels very important to me.

If I were to write the Queen’s speech I would definitely talk about…

chronic illness. ME and chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and other pain conditions, anxiety and depression are some of the debilitating conditions that are, sadly, an everyday existence for millions of people. They cause acute fatigue where people become housebound, isolated and misunderstood – this breaks my heart. These gorgeous people are living a life where all they long to do and see is taken away from them – or it takes every last bit of energy to do and comes at a great cost to their health. So I would want to broadcast the need to truly care for each other. No one is immune to suffering. Connection and kindness are the heart of life.

My favourite Christmas party game is…

CodeNames. I LOVE IT. It’s a board game – it’s hard to explain but, suffice to say, it’s very funny and it makes you think. Anything that’s entirely absorbing I’m very grateful for.

If I were to invite you to my house on 25 December you would find…

me lying by the fire, with a cup of tea, and one for you. We would chink mugs then I would ask you how you were. Not a frivolous ‘How are you?’ but a real, ‘So, tell me, what do you need to offload, or what is really exciting about your life at the moment?’ Because small talk is absolutely banned in my house. Then we’d eat, snooze, fart and I’d introduce you to CodeNames. Oh, do come round!

Finally, I want to say to all YOU readers this Christmas…

take it gently. Look for the everyday miracles. And know that this difficult time will pass but that it can teach us so much. It’s in the weight of suffering that you grow and become even more brilliant than you already are. But if at the moment you’re not OK, that too is OK.

Miranda’s Games With Showbiz Names will be on BBC1 on Christmas Eve at 9.45pm.