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EastEnders boss reveals the secret 'ritual' that helps them dream up the dramatic Christmas Day episodes

(Image credit: BBC)

It puts a whole new spin on Summer…

EastEnders executive producer Jon Sen has revealed that the show’s writing team get together in the Summer to decide on the story that will take centre stage over the festive season… and they dress up in Christmas hats to get them in the mood!

Speaking at a recent press event, the soap’s head honcho explained: “We always do the story planning in Christmas hats. It’s the middle of July, so it gets you in the spirit.

EeastEnders star Letitia Dean as Sharon Mitchell Christmas 2019

It's going to take more than a Christmas hat to cheer Sharon up (Image credit: BBC / Kieron McCarron)

“We’ve got two days where we’re planning Christmas, and you’ve got to feel Christmassy, so we get all the decorations out and put the hats on!”

Asked if there was pressure on the soap to deliver high-octane stories, the BBC’s Head of Continuing Drama, Kate Oates, added: “I think we put pressure on ourselves, because EastEnders’ Christmas is up there with all the great Christmas traditions of sprouts and family annihilation and all that kind of stuff.

“The channel is incredibly supportive; they want to facilitate us to give our best. We’ve got an amazing commissioner called Tommy, who really has our back and really looks out for us.

“In terms of rituals, it was weird actually, because [this year] we were reading the storylines at the weekend and then talking about them on the Monday morning, and Wimbledon was on.”

MORE: Christmas TV Guide - best shows to watch and when they're on

EastEnders has a rich tradition of delivering dramatic episodes on Christmas Day, which dates back to 1986 when over 30 million people tuned in to see Den Watts issue wife Angie with divorce papers.

Since then, memorable Christmas instalments have included the reveal of Max and Stacey’s affair in 2007, Archie Mitchell’s murder in 2009, and Lauren and Abi’s plunge from The Queen Vic roof in 2017, which led to Abi’s subsequent death.

Phil Sharon Keanu EastEnders Christmas Day

Phil finally learns the truth this Christmas in EastEnders (Image credit: BBC / Kieron McCarron)

Bosses have confirmed that the ‘Sheanu’ reveal will be focus of Christmas Day’s hour-long special this year, with Phil Mitchell determined to wreak revenge after discovering that Keanu Taylor is the father of wife Sharon’s unborn baby.

Oates insists that fans are in for a treat, and has gone so far as to say that she believes this year’s scripts are the best she’s ever seen.

“I’ve been in this business for a while, and once we’d got that document, I said ‘I think it’s the best Christmas I’ve ever read’ and I really really meant that.

“I’m really, really excited by it. The story team have done an amazing job, and should be applauded for it.”

EastEnders continues on BBC1.

Alison Slade
Alison Slade

Alison Slade has over 20 years of experience as a TV journalist and has spent the vast majority of that time as Soap Editor of TV Times magazine. 

She is passionate about the ability of soaps to change the world by presenting important, issue-based stories about real people in a relatable way.

There are few soap actors that she hasn’t interviewed over the years, and her expertise in the genre means she has been called upon as a judge numerous times for The British Soap Awards and the BAFTA TV Awards.

When she is not writing about soaps, watching soaps, or interviewing people who are in soaps, she loves going to the theatre, taking a long walk or pottering about at home, obsessing over Farrow and Ball paint.