Having a lot of Non-British (and Non-European) friends, I have recently needed to explain what a British Christmas is like. Christmas in the UK can ca very different from Christmas everywhere else, and also the gap between traditional ideas and the actual practice can be vast too!
I thought that a post explaining the British Christmas would help those interested and living in Britain to understand what it’s like.
A British Christmas has many constant traditions that are generally followed in most families and as well as traditions passed down through individual families.
So many of my friends from other countries aren’t made aware early enough of the fact that, unlike many other countries, almost all stores and restaurants are closed on Christmas Day. As it is the biggest Bank Holiday of the year, you will be hard pressed to find anywhere open on this day, so do travel or go out hoping to spend your day shopping!
Practiced all around the world, the Christmas Tree is a large part of the Christmas experience. Often the first decoration that goes up, there are many different kinds of Christmas trees, from artificial trees made from plastic and wire to the numerous breeds of living Christmas trees!
Often decorations have sentimental value and can be passed down through the generations.
Santa is a jolly old man who travels the world in the night and early morning of Christmas Day, delivering presents to all of the good children of the world.
However, Santa isn’t a familiar figure, beyond the recognisable red and white costume, all over the world.
In Britain, he is also referred to as St Nicholas. Santa is a very important part of children’s Christmases and a huge aspect of the Christmas experience.
Santa Claus is told to be a jolly character who keeps lists of good and naughty children. Children in Britain can often be persuaded into behaving well by the suggestion that Santa will add them to the ‘naughty list’. Santa often deposits presents for good children (and coal for the naughty ones) either under the Christmas tree or in large festive socks called ‘stockings’.
Traditionally, Children would have hung their own socks at the ends of their beds or over the fireplace, but these days stockings designed purely for carrying presents are more common.
Santa Claus is said to travel the world in a sleigh, pulled along by 9 flying reindeer. Children will traditionally leave a gift of a snack and drink for Santa and a carrot for the reindeer.
It’s a strange but cute tradition and it’s very common for people to hang a plastic alternative the the poisonous plant for the benefit of couples.
So be careful where you stand!
The Queen’s Speech
Every year on Christmas Day, a message from the Queen to the people of Britain is broadcast. Once considered a very important part of Christmas Day, the Queen’s speech isn’t really a big focus point of the day for most people. It’s usually just on in the background while everyone eats their Christmas dinner.
One very common gift for people to give each others, outside of immediate family in the same house, is a hamper.
Hampers are like baskets or boxes of savoury items like jams, marmalades, quality canned and jarred goods, oils, wines, beers and many different kinds of long-lasting food or drink stuffs.
Christmas dinner traditionally consists of a whole roasted turkey or goose, roast potatoes, a variety of vegetables, stuffing and gravy. There a so many brilliant recipes for Christmas dinner dishes that you can include in your spread. One of the best sources of festive food delights is Nigella Lawson’s Christmas book:
It is also common for pudding to have Christmas pudding, a steamed fruity cake, often including nuts and brandy butter. The cake can be covered in a brandy and lit on fire before serving (of course, always use extreme care when handling fire, especially when indoors! Setting fire to your Christmas pudding is not recommended)
Do you have any other questions about Christmas? Share them with me either in the comments, using the contact form below or on Facebook or Twitter! Merry Christmas! Xx