I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas. Yesterday was Boxing Day here in the UK (and other countries in the Commonwealth). Boxing Day was once a moment for employers to thank their servants and tradesmen for their services. Now it’s a day to relax with loved ones after the busy Christmas season or, for the more ambitious, to secure those after-Christmas deals in the shops. A brilliant day to celebrate if you ask me! I chose to relax and stuff my face.
I headed down south to Essex for Christmas this year. As an expat, I don’t always have the luxury to visit home for Christmas. With the consistently colder weather year round in Edinburgh (it averages around 60 to 65 degrees F/15-19 degrees C in the summer), I’d much rather visit family during a midwestern summer to enjoy cookouts, swimming and festivals with family and friends as well as to secure my vitamin D for the year.
Thankfully, I’ve never spent a Christmas alone while living here – from wonderful friends who’ve shared their families with me to B inviting me to his amazing family for the holidays. I’ve been lucky. People are what truly make the holidays after all. Skype and FaceTime are also wonderful crutches for the traveller/expat away from family during the holidays. This year I was spoilt with a family rendition of “We Wish you a Merry Christmas” on Christmas Eve, watched my grandpa make his traditional Christmas punch and saw my two-year-old niece excitedly open up her Christmas presents via FaceTime. Thank god for technology. The only things that are missing are the hugs and kisses.
There’s something extra special about celebrating Christmas in Britain. I’m not sure what it is. Maybe it’s because it’s the home of Charles Dickens and Love Actually? Or maybe it’s because I can experience Edinburgh’s Christmas festival that starts four weeks before Christmas and culminates in a massive New Year’s Eve celebration.
During my four Christmases in the UK, I’ve loved the preparation of seasonal foods (parsnips, roasted potatoes, carrots, cranberries and brussel spouts) and the rich puddings (nutella cheesecake anyone? Recipe will be included in my next post) for the Christmas meal, the ironic love for ugly/amazing Christmas jumpers (sweaters) and Christmas crackers to go with your Christmas meal. I love these traditions and am very happy to add them to my own Christmas traditions.
Christmas crackers are one of my favourite British Christmas traditions. Christmas crackers range in size and are made of cardboard with ribbons tied on the ends. They’re placed beside everyone’s place setting. Before the meal starts, you grab your cracker and cross your hands, sharing your cracker with your neighbour on your left as you grab the end of the cracker from your neighbour on the right. You pull each of the crackers and a smokey gunpowder crack follows. Whoever is left with the larger bit finds a coloured paper crown, a cheap little toy and a joke and charade to perform for the other table guests. Everyone wears their cracker crown during the meal, which traditionally consists of: turkey; roasted potatoes, carrots and parsnips; brussel sprouts; cauliflower cheese; bread pudding; cranberry sauce and Christmas pudding.
What are your Christmas traditions? What traditions have you borrowed from your in-laws, friends or travels? Wherever you are and whatever traditions you’re practicing, I hope you’ve had a very Merry Christmas x