L.M. Guide to British…Christmas Traditions

It has been a little while since I have posted one of these, but I thought I would get one set up to post over the holidays in my attempt to keep my blog active while I am actually offline.

This  is not a full and comprehensive list, since goodness knows I am not even close to being ready for the holidays yet – I am actually writing this on the 19th December where none of my wrapping is done and I am yet to finish work for the year.

So if you are looking to add a little British flavour to your Christmas story, here are a few typically British holiday traditions and tidbits of information for you.  Some of this is no doubt the same as in the US, but I suspect some of it isn’t.

First of all Christmas preparations.  Running around the shopping centres (no, we don’t call them malls) like lunatics trying to get everything and queuing for hours for the one thing you forgot.

We have Christmas trees and tacky decorations as I am sure those on the other side of the pond do.  We send cards although an increasing number of people these days are donating to charity in lieu of sending cards.  Personally, I do both and try to buy cards that have part of the money going to charity too.

Christmas jumpers – or sweaters as the US call them – are becoming increasingly popular, especially since we have started wearing them earlier in December for the Children in Need charity.  Other popular clothes are the tacky Christmas ties and socks for the men and the Christmas earrings and other jewellery for the women.

Presents are generally opened on Christmas morning, although some households have adopted the tradition of opening one present on Christmas Eve.

Church services, as far as I know, are the same as in the US so I will not be focusing on the religious aspect of the season.  I do try to keep religion and politics off of my blog when I can.

Although it varies from house to house what time you sit down for Christmas dinner, in my house it is generally around 1pm and then a buffet tea in the evening.  We always have turkey and pigs in blankets (little sausages wrapped in bacon), along with an assortment of vegetables and potatoes.  Brussel sprouts are always a staple on our dinner table.

Christmas television choices are pretty dire.  The BBC does mostly repeats for which it is criticised every single year.   Most soap operas do a Christmas special which they have finally seemed to learn not to deliberately clash with the one on the other channel.  The main ones are Eastenders and Coronation Street and Emmerdale.  They generally involve lots of drama and shouting and in the case of Eastenders there is often a death.  Surviving Christmas on Albert Square is often quite an achievement.  I actually only watch Eastenders but generally have to sit through Coro (as it is called) on Christmas Day since the household we spend the day at do watch that one.  For those who watch all three then Christmas TV is sorted out for you from 7pm to 10pm on Christmas Day.

Another more recent Christmas TV tradition is the Doctor Who special which can sometimes be two parts concluding at New Year.

There are usually quite a few other specials on but I have to admit I don’t watch much TV over the holidays and generally record what I want to see to catch up later.

I should also mention the Queen’s Speech which is broadcast on Christmas Day at 3pm.  I think I have only ever watched it once and this year it clashes with Scrooged (the Bill Murray film) so if the TV is on at all, I am hoping that we’re on that channel.

Board games and other silliness is often the order of the day with charades being one of the most popular games in this country, though I admit that my family tends to stick to other games…. ones that are harder to cheat at!

Boxing Day, for those who have the energy is the start of the sales in the shops.  I try to avoid the shops on that day if at all possible.  Interestingly even though the shops are packed on Boxing Day, the last time I went out at night drinking on Boxing Day the town was dead.

The traditional WHITE Christmas is very rare in England.  Even though we do get quite a bit of snow most winters, it is not usually round on Christmas itself.  That being said the odds are dropping for one this year.  In the last few years we have had snow on Christmas Day twice, though the second time it was not enough to really settle.  Some areas of the British Isles probably will get the snow – some already have – but if you are setting your story over here then check whereabouts it is because while the Scottish Highlands might be digging their vehicles out of the snow, those in the south of England might be sitting outside in the winter sunshine without a snowflake in sight.

We do have robins in this country, though again, they aren’t exactly all over the place.  I have not seen any in a couple of years now, but they are about if you keep your eyes open.

So there we have a bit of info about British Christmas.  Feel free to share your own traditions as I am sure they vary from house to house as well as from country to country.

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