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Christmas Expectations

Do they know it’s Christmas?

by Brian Radcliffe

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To encourage us to take a global view at this celebratory time of year.

Preparation and materials

  • Have available the song ‘Do they know it’s Christmas?’ and the means to play it at the beginning of the assembly. It is 3.43 minutes long and is available at:
  • You may wish to research details of some Christmas support initiatives in your community and further afield. This information may be useful for the extension activity.


  1. Play about 30 seconds of ‘Do they know it’s Christmas?’.

    Ask the students whether they have heard this song before.

    Explain that this well-known track was originally released in 1984. It entered the UK Singles Chart at number 1 and stayed there for five weeks. The song was written by Bob Geldof, singer with the Boomtown Rats, and Ultravox’s frontman Midge Ure, and it raised millions of pounds to fund the supply of food and medical aid to Ethiopia, where a widespread famine was decimating the population.

    The track was rerecorded in 1989, 2004 and 2014 with different groups of singers, all of whom were at the top of their game at the time of recording. These three rerecorded versions also reached number 1 in the charts.

  2. You might be wondering why the same song was rerecorded so many times, and why it sold so many copies each time. Well, the answer is simple. It asks a question that is impossible for us to ignore: does everyone in the world feel as happy as we do as we approach Christmas?

  3. The song isn’t about Christmas itself. Instead, it’s about how Christmas, for most of us, is a time when we’re happy, when we receive presents, when we eat our favourite food. We look forward to this time of year with expectation and usually, our expectations are fulfilled. So, the question is asked: do people in other parts of the world also share that happy feeling?

  4. Note: you may wish to update the following section to include specific, current areas of world or local concern when you are using this assembly.

    There are still countries where there is famine. Many people in vast areas of Africa and Asia suffer because of war, poor government and the chaotic weather conditions that are the result of climate change. In some countries, civil war and invasion have resulted in a breakdown of communications, transport and normal expectations for life. Families are separated, homes are destroyed, people become refugees. Do they know the pleasure of the Christmas that we anticipate? Definitely not.

  5. In the UK, there will be many who aren’t looking forward to Christmas either. Poverty is always relative to expectations in the community around us. There will be some in this town who wish that Christmas could go away because they know that they can’t afford the presents, food and drink that they see advertised on screen. There will be some who grieve the loss of a loved one since last Christmas, and others who are separated by circumstances from the ones they wish they could be close to. There will probably be some among us who identify with these feelings. Do we all know the pleasure of the Christmas that we anticipate? Probably not.

Time for reflection

So, what does Christmas mean to us? If it’s all about food, drink, presents and entertainment, the song that we heard earlier should really make us think. If Christmas simply illustrates the inequalities that exist between our expectations and those of the wider world, maybe we all need to stop and reconsider. Thankfully, this can lead to a positive response, but more of that later.

Christians believe that there is something else at the heart of Christmas. For Christians, Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus, the son of God. Another name for Jesus is Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us’. Christians believe that through the birth of this baby, God gave us a living, breathing example of how to live and how to create a community that is kind and loving, just and equal, and responds to the needs of the weakest. Christians believe that Jesus is with us, motivating us, empowering us and directing us to respond to the needs that we perceive around us and further afield.

Extension activity

  1. Ask the students which areas of need have touched them most during this assembly. Encourage them to consider what their response might be.

    Ask the students, ‘Do you feel any sense of responsibility?’

    Invite the students to create a Christmas-related sponsored event or collection to help one area of need.


‘Do they know it’s Christmas?’, available at: (3.43 minutes long)

Publication date: December 2023   (Vol.25 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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