BBC will explore two of the best loved traditions of Christmas in two documentaries for BBC Two, The Truth About Carols and The Star Of Bethlehem – Behind The Myth.
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Sir Cliff Richard talks to Sally Magnusson about how his faith has shaped his five decades in showbiz in a special one-hour festive edition of Songs Of Praise.
Plus, there will be a chance to hear the very best traditional Christmas music from the quiet splendour of King’s College Cambridge for A Festival Of Nine Lessons And Carols and the joyous celebration of the Songs Of Praise Christmas Big Sing from London’s Royal Albert Hall.
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In The Truth About Carols, composer Howard Goodall uncovers the often turbulent and uncomfortable relationship between carols and the celebration of Christmas.
Though they have been around since the 12th century, carols have only been a feature of church services for the last 150 years.
For centuries the Church tried to keep carols out, believing them to be pagan or of no value, because they were written by human hand.
Carols have been used as secret codes, saved from the brink of extinction and been the subject of state censorship.
The carols sung seem set in stone and yet they can have more than 400 regional variations. Their roots are in dance, in folk culture, street theatre and in pre-Christian religion; and yet they’ve ended up as the quintessential expression of the Christmas story.
In Star Of Bethlehem – Behind The Myth, new developments in technology are allowing scientists, astronomers and historians to map the night skies of the ancient world with extraordinary accuracy.
As they study the movements of the planets and stars around the time of the birth of Christ, could the star of Bethlehem have been a triple conjunction of planets, an occultation of Jupiter and Saturn, or even a supernova?
Christmas preparations start on BBC One on the first Sunday in Advent with Christmas Voices. This is an hour-long programme of inspirational song, chat and debate presented by Lesley Garrett.
Songs Of Praise will prepare for the season with four special programmes. The first on Saint Andrew’s Day (30 November) comes from Linlithgow, birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots.
The second is a special programme celebrating Sir Cliff Richard’s 50 years in show business. Cliff talks to Sally Magnusson about his faith, work and life over the past five decades.
Recorded in front of an invited audience representing the charities he has supported throughout his career, Sir Cliff describes how his attitude towards others has changed, and how he likes to remain an enigma.
Tags: bbc world