For those who have lost a loved one, Christmas is a time of grief as well as joy | Imogen West-Knights

This year, more than ever, many of us will be reflecting on loss

Every year on Christmas Eve, Carols from King’s is broadcast live on BBC Two at 5.30 in the afternoon. And every year, it begins in exactly the same way. Alone in the cavernous silence, the voice of the chosen choirboy, high and clear, climbs the three ascending notes that begin the first verse of Once in Royal David’s City. The sound echoes around the chapel and into homes all over the country, before the rest of the choir and the organ swallow up the soloist for the second verse. For many people, these three notes signify the start of Christmas proper, and the beginning of 48 hours of continuous and fanatical eating. For me, it signifies something else, too.

My primary school had a carol service at Christmas. Every year, someone from the year 6 leaving class would be picked to sing the solo in Once in Royal David’s City, which would open the service just as it does on television. There were only 20 children in my primary school class, of whom there were perhaps five who could sing, a number which included me and one of my best friends.

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