Celebrating Christmas with seasonal poems from around the Commonwealth 

Gyles and Aphra Brandreth share some of their favourite seasonal poems in this special episode of the Commonwealth Poetry Podcast. Joined by staff and students from the University of Chester reading poems that remind them of Christmas, the Holidays and Home. This is the perfect episode to get you in the mood for the festive season wherever you are in the world. Poems this episode include: The Oxen by Thomas Hardy; Love came down at Christmas by Christina Rosetti; To Mrs K, On Her Sending Me an English Christmas Plum-Cake at Paris by Helen Maria Williams; Dear True Love by U. A. Fanthorpe;  Holidays in Chennai by MathiRaj Manohara Raj; and December by Isaiah Agoro.

Episode guests

Hollie Geary-Jones

Hollie Geary-Jones

Hollie is a visiting Lecturer and PhD Candidate in English at the University of Chester. She also leads the social media for the Commonwealth Poetry Podcast.

Shraddha Ramkumar

Shraddah Ramkumar

Shraddah Ramkumar is a year 2 student studying Music Production and Performance at the University of Chester. She is also part of the podcast digital production team. 

Duha Bhat

Duha Bhat

Duha Bhat is currently studying BA (hons) English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Chester. She is a poet and a published author. Her first book titled ‘OH CANCER! YOU STOLE HER’ was published when she was fourteen years old: Oh! Cancer You Stole Her: Cancer “The Heartbreaker” by Duha Bhat – Books on Google Play.

Isaiah Agoro

Isaiah Agoro is a young Nigerian storyteller, creative writer and digital marketer who recently completed a Master’s degree program in Digital Marketing from the University of Chester Business School. He enjoys writing evocative romance-themed poetry which he shares on Instagram. His sights are set on becoming a published author in the near future. 

Link to Short Story: “you cut me” – A short story by Isaiah Agoro 

Link to Poem: Winter nights – Poem by Isaiah Agoro 

MathiRaj Manohara Raj

MathiRaj Manohara Raj

MathiRaj Manohara Raj is a final year BA English literature and creative writing student at the university of Chester. He is a published author of eleven novels, born and brought up in Chennai. His other profession is culinary arts and his hobbies include international poetry busking, sharpshooting, gaming and public speaking.  

Links of previous works: 

  1. Exceptional cuisine: a flash fiction collective 
  2. The Caduceus  Fundraisers 
  3. The Russian barista
  4. Blackjack  
  5. Lullaby to the dying wolf
  6. Legends Never Die: Conflict of cultures  
  7. Vendetta  
  8. 5 Effective traits of REALLY good Bois!  
  9. Blackmamba 
  10. The hustlers 
  11. The story of two hearts  

Love came down at Christmas

by Christina Rosetti

Love came down at Christmas,
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Star and angels gave the sign.

Worship we the Godhead,
Love incarnate, love divine;
Worship we our Jesus:
But wherewith for sacred sign?

Love shall be our token,
Love shall be yours and love be mine,
Love to God and to all men,
Love for plea and gift and sign. 

The Oxen

by Thomas Hardy

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock. 
‘Now they are all on their knees,’
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.  

We pictured the meek mild creatures where 
They dwelt in their strawy pen;

Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.  

So fair a fancy few would weave 
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve, 
‘Come; see the oxen kneel  

‘In the lonely barton by yonder coomb 
Our childhood used to know,’
I should go with him in the gloom, 
Hoping it might be so.  

To Mrs K____, On Her Sending Me an English Christmas Plum-Cake at Paris

by Helen Maria Williams

What crowding thoughts around me wake,
What marvels in a Christmas-cake!
Ah say, what strange enchantment dwells
Enclosed within its odorous cells?
Is there no small magician bound
Encrusted in its snowy round?
For magic surely lurks in this,
A cake that tells of vanished bliss;
A cake that conjures up to view
The early scenes, when life was new;
When memory knew no sorrows past,
And hope believed in joys that last! —
Mysterious cake, whose folds contain
Life’s calendar of bliss and pain;
That speaks of friends for ever fled,
And wakes the tears I love to shed.
Oft shall I breathe her cherished name
From whose fair hand the offering came:
For she recalls the artless smile
Of nymphs that deck my native isle;
Of beauty that we love to trace,
Allied with tender, modest grace;
Of those who, while abroad they roam,
Retain each charm that gladdens home,
And whose dear friendships can impart
A Christmas banquet for the heart!


by U. A. Fanthorpe

Leaping and dancing 

Means to-ing and fro-ing; 

Drummers and pipers – 

Loud banging and blowing; 

Even a pear tree 

Needs room to grow in. 


Goose eggs and gold top 

When I’m trying to slim? 

And seven swans swimming? 

Just where could they swim? 


Mine is a small house, 

Your gifts are grand; 

One ring at a time 

Is enough for this hand. 


Hens, colly birds, doves, 

A gastronome’s treat. 

But love, I did tell you, 

I’ve given up meat. 


Your fairytale presents 

Are wasted on me. 

Just send me your love 

And set all the birds free. 


by MathiRaj Manohara Raj

Every year, all three sixty five days, 

Gets celebrated in far too many festive ways, 

Not centered around one community or region, 

In Chennai, we celebrate festivals across religions 


Come January, we put on crisp new clothes, 

Shower, pray and we go bug Murugan 

For the fresh Pongal, sugarcane and murukku 

The festivities and delicacies of Thai Pongal goes on, Murgan’s doors never close 


Come March, we wear attire, 

that’s willing to retire, 

For the time of Holi, the festival of colours, 

Careful we must be, of the surprise of splashing dyes, launching colourful clouds allover the skies, 


We pester the Holi hell out of Madhuri, 

For many many sweets made at her place 

Onset of march, awaiting to be shared when 

Holi came 


Despite there being a biriyani shop, 

Popping up in every corner of Chennai City, 

Come the months between April to September, 

The gang goes bugging Muhammad, 

For the mouth watering mutton biriyani, 

And Chennai’s iconic crunchy chicken-65, 

All weighed out waiting for us not in boxes, 

But by the buckets. 


Between October and November, 

Amidst the firecrackers and the brightly lit sky, 

A long line stands at Madhu’s door, 

To burst some crackers, make the way to the cinemas, 

Enjoy a bloody good movie and return back to her house, 

Hungry for the Naatukozhi kulambu and paccha saadham, 

Oh the dish’s name in itself calls for a waterfall in my mouth 


Rolls in December, we stand at our friend Michael’s door, 

For this the season not only to be jolly, 

But to recieve homemade cakes and handmade chocolates, 


The blues of no ‘more holidays’ kicks in six days after the cakes and chocolates 

But on the seventh day, the calender refreshes, 

Lining up another busy schedule of bugging our buddies. 


Festivals were created by communities and religions, 

But in my dear Chennai, we never let them constrain us to not sharing the fun. 


Our national pledge goes, 

‘All Indians are my brothers and sisters’, 

Chennai city’s festive culinary adventures, 

Attests to the same. 


by Isaiah Agoro

And once whistling winds strip the trees 

into their skeletal bareness 

I become like a time traveler 

Conveyed in the scents of fallen leaves 

to a time when the bells actually jingled 

and the Christmas songs sounded anew 

Before Santa traded his pot belly 

for six packs of smart technology 

When the actual star of the season 

sat at the top of the tree 

A time when love was a song 

sang by all the faithful 

lined up on glistening altars 

When the night breathed silence 


With stars that do not stop twinkling 

When time would slow own 

that we got to enjoy 

all the twelve days of Christmas 

And the sweet voices of the herald Angels 

Maybe its my euphoric bias for the past 

or strong attachment to sentiments 

But I get stuck in a time 

When the winds carried a stronger bite 

and the naked trees looked so beautiful 

adorned in all white.