I have been asked many times if we celebrate Christmas in England. I have also been asked if we have dogs, are connected to the Internet, and celebrate Thanksgiving, but that’s a different matter.
In the USA, people typically put up their Christmas trees in November right after Thanksgiving (the fourth Thursday of the month). In England, without Thanksgiving celebrations, people wait until the first week of December. However, shops in England tend to start their Christmas displays a lot earlier than shops in the USA. It’s common for shops to start selling Christmas items in late September.
Mince Pies are about the size of a cupcake (in England we’d say “fairy cake”) and are made of pastry with a fruit and spice filling. Hundreds of years ago they were made with meat, but the poor couldn’t afford that luxury at Christmas, so they filled them with fruit instead. In the end, the tradition of the poor won out. They taste great warm or cold, and with cream on. We usually use liquid cream rather than squirty cream.
Father Christmas is the same as Santa Claus, a magical person who comes down the chimney of every child’s house and puts presents under the tree. As a kid, I was encouraged to leave Father Christmas a glass of sherry for the ride. I wonder who drank it.
Christmas Pudding is rarely made at home because it is so complex and takes a long time to cook. It is flammable, and people usually douse them with sherry before lighting them on fire.
The Pub on Christmas morning: For people who live in small villages, it is a tradition to go to the pub for an hour on Christmas morning, usually from 11am till midday. It’s a way to wish everyone in the village a Merry Christmas. The whole family is welcome, including young children.
Christmas crackers are tubes about the diameter of toilet rolls and contain a small toy, paper crown (which must be worn) and a joke. They also contain a small gunpowder charge, so they snap when pulled! You always pull them with someone else at the dinner table, never yourself, unless you are lonely.
Presents are opened on the morning of the 25th, usually right when the family wakes up.
Twiglets: Twiglets are knobbly things that taste like Marmite. If you don’t know what Marmite is, it’s yeast extract. You either love it or hate it. At christmas, it’s common to have a tub of Twiglets on the coffee table, along with other snacks like nuts to crack.
Boxing Day is a holiday on the 26th. No one knows the exact origin of Boxing Day, but it is thought to stem from the rich putting unused food and other items into boxes for donation to the poor the day after Christmas day. They don’t do that any more, but we still get a day off!
Chocolates: In an English living room at Christmas, you will usually find a metal tin of chocolates. Nestle make Quality Streets, and Cadbury’s make Roses. As you know, chocolate is very popular in Europe, and no Christmas is complete without a tin of these. Quality Streets tend to have more toffees, and Roses tend to have more chocolates. I grew up preferring Quality Streets, but switched to Roses a few years ago!
Roast turkey is served at the dinner table of every English household on Christmas day, except perhaps vegetarian ones. You can even buy meatless turkey substitute if you can’t kill a bird for Christmas.