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Songs of Praise: Pete Waterman looks at Christmas customs just before the First World War

Celebrate Christmas with BBC Religion & Ethics

BBC Religion & Ethics celebrates the festive season and reflects on the message of Christmas.


Across radio and television there are traditional services and favourite carols, with music from the celebrated composer John Rutter and from the world-famous choir of King's College, Cambridge.


Special editions of regular favourites such as Songs of Praise and Good Morning Sunday also offer the opportunity for reflection and celebration at this special time of year.


BBC Radio explores the Christmas story and how it is celebrated throughout the world.


Presented by actress Fiona Shaw, Mary Mary (Radio 2) traces the appeal of the Virgin Mary.


Talking to biblical scholars, historians and religious leaders, Fiona tries to piece together what she would have been like and how she would have lived.


She discovers that Mary is also one of the major figures revered in Islam and asks if Mary could be a unifying force between the world's two major faiths.


In Christmas in Bethlehem (Radio 4), Libby Purves and guests discover how Christmas is celebrated in Bethlehems all over the world.


Actress Sian Phillips and poet John Hegley join Libby in Bethlehem, South Wales.


Counting down to Christmas, the Bishop of Liverpool the Rt Rev James Jones leads live worship programmes for the season of Advent.


In Down to Earth (BBC ONE) he explores the theme of ecology and the environment from a theological perspective, looking at the connections between the gospels and the earth.


On Christmas Eve, the BBC joins the congregation to celebrate Midnight Mass live from Saint George's Roman Catholic Cathedral, Southwark (BBC ONE) and St. Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham (Radio 4).


The Christmas Day Service, Crackers for Christmas (BBC ONE), comes live from Methodist Central Hall in Coventry.


Celebrating Christmas with a selection of well loved carols, John Rutter directs the South Bank Sinfonia and Pegasus in Radio 4's Christmas Morning Service.


The service, from St Mary, Islington, is led by the Bishop of Stepney the Rt Rev Stephen Oliver and features the Rev Colin Morris reflecting on the significance of "the Word made Flesh".


50 years after its first televised recording, Carols from King's (BBC TWO) tells the Christmas story afresh in music and prose.


The world-famous choir of King's College, led by Stephen Cleobury, performs popular carols such as Once in Royal David's City and O Come All Ye Faithful.


The traditional Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols (Radio 4) also welcomes in Christmas for radio listeners throughout the world.


The choristers perform traditional favourites and specially commissioned carols including God would be Born in Thee by Judith Bingham and Starry Night o'er Bethlehem by David Willcocks.


The musical celebrations continue with another long-running favourite, Songs of Praise (BBC ONE).


Jonathan Edwards introduces carols by candlelight from Ely Cathedral and actor David Suchet reads the story of Christmas.


Renowned for his love of pop hits, Pete Waterman is also passionate about hymns and carols.


In the final Songs of Praise of the year, he introduces his choice of Christmas carols and takes a festive trip back in time to look at Christmas customs just before the First World War.


A Seaside Parish returns to BBC TWO over the festive period with an hour-long special to mark the start of the new series.


This year, Boscastle became headline news when a devastating flood swept through the town, destroying all in its path.


But, at the start of the year, the Rev Christine Musser and her parishioners could have no idea of the disaster that would engulf this sleepy seaside village.


The first episode of the new series revisits Boscastle and its residents in the months running up to that fateful day.


Other radio highlights include the Christmas Meditation (Radio 4) from the Roman Catholic Archbishop of St Andrew's and Edinburgh, Cardinal Keith O'Brien, and Belief (Radio 3) in which Joan Bakewell explores the influences that have shaped her guests.


Joan talks to the Bishop of Durham Tom Wright, writer Hanif Kureishi, poet Debjani Chatterjee, writer Howard Jacobson and Muslim commentator Ziauddin Sardar.


On Christmas morning, the Rev Roger Royle is joined by special guests and religious leaders in Good Morning Christmas (Radio 2), whilst Don Maclean looks back at interviews with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Martin Bell, Lionel Richie and Sister Wendy Beckett as he introduces The Best of Good Morning Sunday (Radio 2).


Celebrating St Stephen's Day from the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban, Hertfordshire, the Very Rev Jeffrey John leads his first broadcast sermon since his appointment as the Dean of St Albans in Sunday Worship (Radio 4).


And for Sunday Half Hour (Radio 2) Rev Roger Royle is joined by 1,600 carol singers in the recently opened Sage Centre in Gateshead.


Finally, bringing us into the New Year, The Archbishop of Canterbury's New Year Message (BBC TWO; repeated BBC ONE) sees Rowan Williams reflect on the year gone by and look forward to the challenges of the year ahead.


Full details of all programmes, including transmission times, are available at




Category: Factual & Arts TV; Radio 2; Radio 3; Radio 4

Date: 10.12.2004
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