20 December 2012

Christmas In England

The Christmas season comes earlier to England than to the US

In England, it creeps in as early as November 5th
after Guy Fawkes Night

In the US, the season officially kicks off after Thanksgiving
(end of November)

Although England is ethnically diverse
(especially in and around London)
there is no politically correct 
'Happy Holidays' or 'Seasons Greetings' to be heard

See the English robin in lights?

'Merry Christmas' and 'Happy Christmas',
are not meant to be religiously assuming
Just a general 'wishing you a wonderful holiday season'

As Christianity is the official religion here,
there is no pretending it isn't
(although they are welcoming of other religions)

We were surprised by how many Jewish neighbors lived in our area
when we saw 'menorahs' in many home windows
We soon learned these 'welcome lights' are actually a new, fast-growing tradition
originating from Nordic countries

English Christmas traditions include

browsing craft fairs and Christmas markets,
visiting Santa in one of his many grottos
& attending a local 'panto' production

Family-friendly pantos take a classic story
and add gender swapping, songs, humor for adults & kids,
and loads of audience participation
photo: ATG tickets

Another activity includes stopping by a local National Trust property
to view it in period holiday decor

Edwardian Christmas at Polesden Lacey (National Trust)

Although sending Christmas cards is an old tradition here,
family photo cards are just starting to catch on

The cutie-pie English robin is closely associated with Christmas
possibly because postmen in Victorian times
wore red uniforms and delivered cards
Postmen were nicknamed 'Robin'

Post boxes have been red since 1884

Also, the robin is one feathered friend still seen on the island this time of year :)

Santa will find small mince pies, not cookies, 
left for him by the fireplace

Mince pies

Christmas meals will be enjoyed at local pubs and in homes

The menu is often goose, ham, or turkey with stuffing
In fact, turkey first appeared in England on wealthy tables in the 16th century
Reportedly Henry VIII was the first monarch 
to eat the exotic American bird for Christmas

Today, brussels sprouts and parsnips also may be served
followed by Christmas Pudding
('pudding' is a general term for baked desserts)

Mini Christmas Puddings
photo credit: Tesco

Don't come to England looking for 'Figgy Pudding' 
as it has been replaced by Christmas Pudding

Figgy Pudding's key ingredient was figs and was offered to carolers 
as a thank you for singing to the wealthy community

'Oh Bring Us Some Figgy Pudding' 
is a line from the carol 'We Wish You A Merry Christmas', 
originally sung in the 16th century in England's West Country

And although they don't have yummy eggnog here,
mulled wine is a delicious alternative
- warm, spiced red wine -

Another lovely tradition after the Christmas meal
is Christmas Crackers

Two people pull each end to open the cracker to see what is inside
- a paper crown, small toy, confetti, or a joke -

Wishing you a wonderful holiday with your loved ones
May you stay warm and cozy in heart and home :)

- all photos are my own, unless otherwise noted -

Sources: Wikipedia 1, 2; Arundel Wetlands Centre


Robyn said...

merry Christmas,Laura!hope it is a good one for you and yours!

Sandra said...

Hello Laura, it's always nice to pop in here and see my country of origin through your eyes. Lovely pictures of different seasonal cheer, but my favourite has to be the robin on the wall looking at the bird-feeder and frost on the grass!
Happy Christmas to you and may 2013 be a year of happy discovery!

Ariana Mullins said...

Merry Christmas, Laura! I just shared this post-- I love the way you pick a subject and compare and contrast to US culture.

Victoria said...

Oh, that was a wonderful post and brought back many wonderful English Christmas memories! My mom always made mince pies and cheese biscuits. Our pressies would be left at the end of our beds and Boxing Day was like another Christmas, we'd go to my grandma's and have it all over again:) I've kept the tradition of Christmas crackers, my boys love them and I just sent my oldest son a huge tin of Quality Street chocolates! One thing I never liked was Christmas cake, my grandma would always have a huge one and the only thing I ever liked about it was the little plastic decorations it would have on top!

Lazy Daisy Jones said...

How sweetly you explain our funny old customs, lovely blog Thank you
Daisy j

HippieGirl21 said...

OMG, that food sounds so good. And that bird is so cute. I just love lil birdies. That guy in the 'Cinderella' picture can be my Prince Charming anyday :D I just love the pics you posted. It definitely is a unique way of showing what Christmas is like in England. Around me, we don't have Jewish neighbors, so we don't get to see them light a candle on the Menorah every night.

And what's really suprising is that thos Christmas Crackers are actually sold around here. Many people do not get them, and they especially don't get why it might say 'Imported from England' on the side of the boxes. For a while, I actually thought those were firecrackers, silly me. You get some good traditions over there. Around me, the only drinking being done is Hot Apple Pie, HotShots, vodka and lemonade, beer, wine. But all that food, including those mince pies, look so good. Let me know if they're good. I'm always up to trying new ethnic food from other countries, especially this country, 'cuz I want to see it so badly!!!

ann said...

Merry Christmas, Laura. I have enjoy reading your stories of England all year long.There isla simplicity to life in England that I embrace. I dislike the "Happy Holidays" secular, generic greetings, so I make a point to wish clerks "Merry Christmas", and I assume that they have been trained to either say nothing or "Happy Hoidays". As I read your posts I keep thinking "What a wonderful experience for your children." Looking forward to more wonderful stories form England in '13.

Denise said...

Oh Laura, this post makes my heart sing!! I was so glad to see this on my blogroll this morning! I love your fun posts with all the information about England's history, traditions, and culture, and your photos are always wonderful. These may be some of my favorites. I love the photos of Polesden Lacey, the 'welcome lights' and the little red Robin. They are THE cutest birds -- so much cuter than our Robins.

Thank you for sharing these images and I hope that you and yours will have a very "Merry Christmas"!

Denise at Forest Manor

Paula said...

Laura - these photos and the commentary were just perfect! I love reading about Christmas traditions in other countries, and have read enough British authors to know that I will someday celebrate Christmas in England. It is all so lovely! I would love to make a Christmas pudding like the one in the photo. I suppose gingerbread would be a good substitute...I will have to experiment!

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Here is a recipe - perhaps you could substitute suet with Crisco? http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/christmaspudding_87598

Easier yet, I just saw on Amazon.com you can order one :)

greenthumb said...

England is so like Australia in its traditions, lovely photos.

Dave D said...

"And although they don't have yummy eggnog here,"

Isn't eggnog like advocaat:


Sissym said...

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Claire said...

wishing you a wonderfully British Christmas!!

High Heeled Life said...

Lauara, wishing you a very Merry Christmas! and thank you for sharing what happens across the pond. Hugs, C. (HHL)

Jo said...

Hi Laura, reading your accounts of our old English customs really makes me smile. I suppose when you grow up with certain customs, they don't seem strange until you hear someone describe them! I'm reading these thinking "well of course Santa has mince pies and often a nip of whiskey and not to forget Rudolf has a carrot!" :)
Being an British expat it's amazing what differences I see in Australia, even though many of the customs are similar there are lots of the subtle little things that I miss and of course the seasons are totally out of whack, so that confuses the heck out of me! It's lovely to hear your account and to see my old customs through fresh eyes (yours)!
We used to have Warninks Advocaat with lemonade and called that Eggnog, although it's probably completely different to what you're used to. I know here they have Eggnog in a carton like custard! I've yet to try it but it seems weird to me. Think I may have to try it this year come to think about it. :)
Enjoy the festivities
Jo x

Bonnie said...

I am loving your Christmas in England posts.

Merry Christmas to you!

Elizabeth@ Pine Cones and Acorns said...


So many wonderful photos and traditions in England. I love visiting there during the Christmas season, it is wonderful to see all of the houses from the NAtional Trust decorated and to see all of the tasty treats in the stores.

Have a wonderful week and happy holiday, elizabeth

A Tale of Two Cities said...

I love, love, love Christmas in England, but then I always rush home to the US to be home with family on Christmas week. Hope you and your family have a joy-filled holiday!

lisaroyhandbags said...

Love this post! Christmas in Ireland was the same and I did love the simplicity of it. Everything felt so much less commercial and truly a time to share cheer with friends and family.

Lea said...

What a great post. I love all things Christmas!

Lea - http://seasonsfullcircle.blogspot.com

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Hmm, I've never heard of it - I think I'll need to do a taste test real soon :)

Happy Homemaker UK said...

Yes, that is a proper North American eggnog - thick like cream from a carton in the refrigerated section in the grocery store. You can have it plain (my kids like it), but if you want to add alcohol to it, add rum or brandy. Yum :)

Older Mum said...

Lovely post - and have a wonderful Christmas!

Vintage Sheet Addict said...

Have a super Christmas Laura! :) x

Gillian said...

Even though I'm English and have celebrated every Christmas in England, I was still fascinated by this post. I take all these traditions for granted. I would love to read a similar post about American traditions! x

Noelle the dreamer said...

Ah Laura, you reached our heart yet again (yes, both ex-RAF hubby and I take turn to read posts)! Thank you for a splendid tour of Ol' England's traditions! Just could not resist saving the feeder and tiny robin on the wall! Your photos are always lovely!

Dave D said...

You could try a Snowball:

My Garden Diaries said...

How refreshing to just be able to say Merry Christmas without worrying if you may offend someone! This post was so interesting to me! I must say that what I like most is how old fashioned everything feels in England! What cool traditions! Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Jeanie said...

I love every image, every revelation, every photo in this post! How fun to see how people in one of my favorite countries celebrate! Merry Christmas and such a happy new year to you -- so pleased to have discovered you in 2012 and look forward to more visits in 2013!

wohnraumformer said...

Yummie!...and thank you...
Have an nice christmas with your family.

Alyson (New England Living) said...

Oh, this brings back wonderful memories of spending Christmas in England during my teen years! I loved it there! Of course, I brought the tradition to my family of opening Christmas crackers. We do it every year.

Thanks for sharing this!

my little red suitcase said...

we pull our crackers at the beginning of the meal and then wear the silly paper hat throughout the meal!! we have always done this, I thought everyone did this! I hope you all do this this year, it's fun!! Heather x

Joyce said...

I want that cake plate : ) Happy Christmas to you!

louise said...

Thanks for reminding me any I love living in the UK during 2012. Happy Christmas Laura xx

Emily said...

Laura, I love the English Robin. So adorable in comparison to our American Robin. I wish we had a few around our feeder! :) Would love to see the National Trust homes in period festive decor. Speaking of, we're all gearing up for the return of Downton Abbey in January. We've been anticipating it since last spring. I know it's old news to y'all. Oh, and be sure to pop over for my English Christmas plug via Charles Dickens.
Merry Christmas, Laura!

PURA VIDA said...

Wishing you a blessed and Merry Christmas. I have so enjoyed your wonderful blog! Gina

June said...

I loved this post Laura! Beautiful photos of all things British! I am so glad you stopped by my blog so I could find you : )
Have a Merry Christmas!

Wendy said...

Loved reading about the customs of Christmas in the Uk, thank you. I knew about the crackers and bought some for Michael for New Years. He's excited to see what they contain. I had to laugh because when I went to pay for them they had to see my drivers license to check my birth date. I asked if they contained gunpowder or what? Sheesh here I am 46 years old and I'm getting carded to buy crackers for New Years! Happy New Years and here's hoping y'all had a wonderful Christmas.

Cupcake Crazy Gem said...

This made me so sad! I'm a Brit now living in Canada and even though I wasn't very patriotic and didn't really think England was a great place to live and was a lover of all things North American...I'm starting to change my mind! Christmas just wasn't the same here, and I've come to realise nowhere does Christmas quite like England - there were SO many things I missed this year. I hate the happy holidays that people say, we didn't get any carol singers or hear any out in the streets or in the shopping centres and I missed the brass bands you get playing old classic carols and hymns. I really missed the way every town decorates with lights strewn across the streets and through the trees - Vancouver was a big fat let down with it's lack of Christmas lights in the city! Give me London any day at Christmas!!

Attic Clutter said...

lovely Christmas post..