Christmas is all around us…
It might be your first Christmas in the UK or perhaps you have lived here for a few years and are wondering about the weird, but wonderful traditions. The first sign the season is upon us, is when shops suddenly become very busy with people and you may wonder where everyone is hiding during the rest of the year. Starting in mid-November, you hear Christmas carols and songs everywhere and these will become real earworms.
The main priority of course is the Christmas shopping list; gifts, Christmas cards, decorations, mince pies (which are not made of mince), crackers (but not those that go with cheese), and of course the traditional Christmas dinner meal. This consists usually of a turkey serving a family twice your size, and Brussel sprouts which will inevitably be left barely touched.
If you have young children, you will be invited along to the school nativity play. As there are only three main characters, don’t be surprised if unusual costumes are required to be made and featured on stage; lobsters and octopus are classics, but other rare animals might have an appearance.
While in many countries the Christmas period is observed contemplatively, many British families enjoy this time of the year partying. Pantomime also plays an important part, which you may be surprised to know has little to do with miming but is more a slapstick comedy with audience participation.
Christmas Day traditionally involves getting up very early in the morning and unwrapping gifts, and then preparing the feast (often known as ‘dinner’ but eaten at lunch). Christmas crackers are always a highly anticipated part of the celebrations, each traditionally containing a party hat (inevitably tearing a couple of minutes into use), a small gift or toy, and of course the infamous ‘Christmas joke’ (yes, the British often don’t find them funny either). Feeling thoroughly stuffed and festive families retire to the sofa and the TV is turned on for the Queen’s speech.
If you need to work off some of the turkey consumed over the festivities, a walk in the bracing English cold (although very rarely featuring the snow for which most of us wish on Christmas day, despite the chaos that inescapably accompanies it) you may be surprised to find the otherwise shy neighbours excitedly wishing you a Merry Christmas.
Boxing Day is a particularly English tradition when the sales begin and often includes waking up early yet again, this time to go shopping (of course with the time-honoured English tradition of queuing…), returning home in time to watch the traditional Boxing Day sporting fixtures of football and horse racing.
Article written by Katharina Grimm, December 2019
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