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Cliff, Jesus, Del Boy or Santa: who is the true spirit of Christmas?

We use science to rate some of the most Christmassy people ever

Cliff, Jesus, Del Boy or Santa: who is the true spirit of Christmas?
21 December 2016

When it comes to festive cheer, you can never have too much. Some of have it in droves and start getting excited mid-November, others keep it under wraps until the tree’s up and Wham comes on the radio. 

Some people, though, have become icons of the Christmas season – stars, celebrities, deities, and mythical figures whose very being seems to capture the essence of this thing we call “festive spirit”.

But, of them all, just who is the real spirit of Christmas? Who has spread the most seasonal joy? Who truly embodies Christmas?

To find out, we’ve rounded up some of the top contenders and rated their performance in some of the Xmas essentials – style, jolliness, the number of hit Crimbo singles under their belt, and much more.

Santa Claus

Crimbo Credentials: Delivers presents to children all around the world. Let’s be honest – without him, Christmas just wouldn’t happen.

Festive Look: Red hat, red suit, sleigh accessory. Your classic Crimbo style.

Seasonal Jolliness: Off the chart. Less so in those knock-off supermarket Santas, most of whom look sick to death of it.

Xmas Movies Starred In: Plenty. Santa Claus: The Movie, for starters.

Hit Xmas Singles: He’s been the subject of many, many Christmas songs –  such as Santa Claus is Coming to Town – but hasn’t managed to do one himself. Pull your finger out Santa, we haven’t had a decent Christmas number one in years.

Xmas Rating: It’s a strong nine out of ten for Santa. Lets himself down by ruining the lives of every child once they learn the awful truth.

Derek Trotter

Crimbo Credentials: The undisputed king of the Christmas special. As round-the-clock repeats of Only Fools and Horses on Gold prove.

Festive Look: The usual Del Boy clobber isn’t particularly Christmassy, but the image of Del Boy dressed up as Batman is Christmas telly personified.

Seasonal Jolliness: Inspired more laughs at Christmas than your great aunt farting while in a sprout-induced coma on the settee.

Xmas Movies Starred In: No actual movies, but did 16 feature length specials.

Hit Xmas Singles: A poor showing here. Didn’t even do a novelty record. That would have been easy money in his heyday. C’mon, Del Boy, we thought you wanted to be a millionaire?

Xmas Rating: Six for Del Boy. Loses a couple of points for making a few too many Christmas specials and spoiling his own legacy. What a 42-carat plonker.

Noddy Holder

Xmas Credentials: You know the holidays are coming when you hear Slade frontman Noddy scream, “It’s Chrisstttmmmaaassss!!”

Festive Look: Giant lamb chops, big seventies hair, mad glam rock clothes. If the sight of that doesn’t flood your soul with festive cheer, you’re probably dead inside.

Seasonal Jolliness: Has been in a perpetually good mood since the early Seventies.

Xmas Movies Starred In: None. But he’s probably been in more Christmas editions of Top of the Pops 2 than anyone else.

Hit Xmas Singles: Not just any old Christmas single, but THE Christmas single, Merry Xmas Everybody. Released in ’73, it’s remained the country’s biggest festive dancefloor-filler ever since.

Xmas Rating: It’s a seven. Sure, it’s not Christmas until you’ve had Noddy screaming in your lugholes, but he’s almost directly responsible for those annoying people who whinge “Ohhh, it gets earlier every year” when they hear the song playing over the Asda speakers in late August. 

Jesus Christ

Xmas Credentials: Pretty much invented Christmas just by being born. Fair play.

Festive Look: Nativity-style robes – the old school festive look, before Christmas jumpers took over.

Jolliness: Seems like a pretty sombre fellow, to be honest. Might drag down Christmas dinner going on about how the true meaning of Christmas is goodwill to all men, rather than stuffing yourself and watching crap all day.

Xmas Movies Starred In: None. Imagine putting on The Passion of the Christ when your nan’s round. It could finish her off. The Life of Brian might be on, but that’s about Brian, not Jesus.

Hit Xmas Singles: Not any proper chart-toppers, but pretty much owns the Christmas carol scene.

Xmas Rating: A solid eight. Kudos for creating the whole thing, but we can’t see him getting into the swing at the office party. 

Cliff Richard

Crimbo Credentials: An icon of British-style Christmas, his festive songs and relentless do-goodery has seen him intrinsically tied to the season.

Festive Look: His all-black ensemble from the Mistletoe & Wine video was peak Christmas chic in the Eighties.

Jolliness: Not sure about jolliness, but his unintentionally hilarious calendar has people laughing for days every Christmas. Never before has there been such a blatant attempt by a man to jumpstart the ovaries of every woman over 70.

Xmas Movies Starred In: His mercifully short film career was more about summer holidays than festive seasons.

Hit Xmas Singles: Two Christmas number ones with Mistletoe & Wine in 1988 and Saviour’s Day in ‘90. Almost edged into Christmas ’99 with Millennium Prayer before Westlife knocked him off. Boo.

Xmas Rating: Cliff equals Christ himself with an eight (did you expect any less?). It just wouldn’t be Christmas without Cliff.

Ebenezer Scrooge

Crimbo Credentials: The main character in A Christmas Carol, the greatest Christmas story ever told. Well, apart from the birth of JC, obvs.

Festive Look: Proper old school Victorian clobber, which in itself is well Christmassy – black top hat and suit to begin, then spends the rest of the story wandering around in a Wee Willy Winky-style nightgown and cap.

Seasonal Jolliness: Absolutely dreadful. Inventor of the anti-Christmas catchphrase “Bah, humbug!” and a generally uncharitable, uncaring, Crimbo killjoy. Hence being visited by the ghosts of Christmases past, present and future.

Xmas Movies Starred In: About a million film and TV adaptations.

Hit Xmas Singles: Not exactly, but Michael Caine does have a go at singing in the Muppets Christmas Carol. Big mistake.

Xmas Rating: Three. You might think that’s generous, but he does redeem himself at the end when he buys a big goose for Bob Crachit and Tiny Tim. God bless us, everyone. 

David Bowie

Crimbo Credentials: An unexpected contender, Bowie’s a bigger Christmas fixture than you might realise.

Festive Look: OK, Bowie’s trademark looks don’t scream Crimbo, but we love his snowy jumper and red scarf, which Father Christmas gave to him personally in The Snowman. Oh, you forgot? BOWIE’S THE ACTUAL BOY FROM THE FLIPPIN’ SNOWMAN.

Seasonal Jolliness: The world plunged into a dark despair when he died, so it’s safe to say he spread plenty of joy.

Xmas Movies Starred In: Well, The Snowman, obvs. And Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence, though it’s a more about prisoners of war that actual yuletide spirit, 

Hit Xmas Singles: His Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy duet with Bing Crosby. Taken from Crosby’s Merrie Olde Christmas TV special, it’s worth a YouTube for the hammy bit when Bowie knocks on the door. “I’m David Bowie, I live down the road.”

Xmas Rating: It’s a massive ten for Bowie. He might not have shouted about it, but he’s as much a part of British Christmas as cheap tinsel and pints of Baileys.

The Queen

Crimbo Credentials: Does a speech every year. If you don’t watch whilst stood and saluting the TV set, you’re doing Christmas wrong.

Festive Look: Prim, proper, and well turned out. Still in the mindset that Christmas is strictly for Sunday Best.

Seasonal Jolliness: Hmmm. The Christmas address is pretty dour.

Xmas Movies Starred In: None, but she’s in The Naked Gun. That’s bound to be on.

Hit Xmas Singles: No, but if she sang this year’s speech that would definitely liven it up. 

Xmas Rating: A middling five for Queen Elizabeth II, who’s an undoubted part of everyone’s Christmas – if only because her speech marks the point when the day switches from excitement to the inevitable struggle with consciousness and remains of the Quality Street tin.  

John McClane

Crimbo Credentials: A bit like Santa, but instead of climbing down chimneys and leaving presents, New York cop McClane climbs down elevator shafts and leaves whopping great bundles of Semtex.

Festive Look: Vest, trousers, barefoot. Try a proper woolly jumper for Die Hard 2, John. Oh, you did.

Seasonal Jolliness: Not jolly at all. To be fair, he’s single-handedly fighting a load of terrorists after they take over an LA skyscraper. Though he was in a mood before they even showed up.

Xmas Movies Starred In:Die Hard. The greatest festive film of all time. Some people would argue it’s The Muppet Christmas Carol, but look at McClane – he’d shoot Kermit’s face off no problem.

Hit Xmas Singles: No Christmas songs but Bruce Willis did release an album. Best we don’t talk about it though.

Xmas Rating: A low score of just four. He might save Christmas, but you know deep down he’s a grinch. Plus, all killing and effing and jeffing isn’t very festive.

Geraldine Granger

Crimbo Credentials: AKA the Vicar of Dibley. A close rival for Del Boy’s Christmas TV special crown.

Festive Look: Dresses like a vicar, naturally. So you know she’s bang into Christmas.

Seasonal Jolliness: Eternally upbeat, as any vicar worth their salt would be. Also so keen to make everyone happy at Christmas that in the 1996 special she agrees to eat Christmas dinner with four different people. Incredible effort.

Xmas Movies Starred In: Richard Curtis was too busy sopping over Love Actually to write Geraldine the movie she deserved.

Hit Xmas Singles: Nothing that’s been in the charts, but she’s obviously done her share of hymns and carols.

Xmas Rating: A well-earned seven. Anyone who can eat more than one Christmas dinner is an absolute yuletide legend in our book.

Brian Harvey

Crimbo Credentials: One quarter of East 17 (the best quarter, as well). And what sort of Christmas would it be without East 17?

Festive Look: The greatest puffa jacket in the history of Christmas music. Any music, to be honest.

Seasonal Jolliness: Bit too much attitude, but we can barely look at him these days without hearing those festive bells they stuck in the song to make it a bit more Christmassy. He’s spread joy without even knowing it.

Xmas Movies Starred In: None, but the East 17 biopic is surely imminent.

Hit Xmas Singles: Heartfelt banger Stay Another Day is one of the last true Christmas classics (*stay now, stay now*)

Xmas Rating: We’ll give him a well-deserved seven. Which is four plus the number of baked potatoes that caused Bri to run himself over.