Carols fill Stormont air, but PM refuses to play the role of Santa
Lessons on the meaning of giving and goodwill to all along with carols are commonplace at Christmas time.
Sure enough, at Parliament Buildings yesterday the annual carol service rang out clear as a bell.
Just a few hundred yards down the hill at the multi-party talks it was all much more about lessons.
Headmaster David Cameron had arranged a potentially lengthy detention session to deal with several very unruly pupils.
After weeks of failing to do much by way of homework, our politicians were being schooled in the art of compromise.
Sinn Fein for one was instructing a Prime Minister on how to save a devolved government - by signing a very large cheque just in time for the holiday season.
The Christmas spirit appeared to be in short supply, however, as Mr Cameron revealed he had not arrived in the role of Santa - and it could be some time before any presents are handed out.
It was much more about rapping, as in knuckles, rather than wrapping, as in gifts.
A feeling of deja vu, all over again, pervaded exactly 12 months after the last intensive Stormont negotiations resulted in an international diplomat heading for the hills.
This time around there seemed even less in the way of a genuine deadline, especially compared to when Dr Richard Haass and Professor Meghan O'Sullivan needed to get home in time for Christmas - and then for the new year.
For the nostalgic there was one ghost from talks sessions past - a new Alistair Campbell from the Number 10 Press Office.