So this is your first real British Christmas away from home. This will not be Christmas like you remembered it from a child. Possibly you’re feeling a bit homesick being away from your family, too. While many things are similar between Britain and Australia/New Zealand (e.g. cricket), Christmas is the season for experiencing a bit of good old fashioned culture clash.
The first thing you will find is that many of the traditional things to do with Christmas make sense all of a sudden when Christmas falls in winter around the shortest day of the year instead of during summertime. Remember how, in the Chronicles of Narnia, the White Witch put a curse on Narnia so that it was always winter but never Christmas? And you probably have your own memories of winters that were dark, drab and dreary. Having Christmas at this time of the year really does cheer up a cold, wet rag-end of the year – it’s no surprise at all that Christianity grafted a celebration of the birth of Jesus onto the old pagan midwinter celebrations, as the human psyche needs something at midwinter to cheer you up and give you the hope that the nights are going to get shorter from here on out.
So first of all – put up Christmas lights (or Hanukah lights, if that’s your preference). As it gets dark very early – even those from the far south of New Zealand will be astonished at how early in the day darkness falls in a British winter – lights make good sense. You no longer have to wait until 9:00 p.m. to appreciate the beauty of fairy lights, candles and all the multitude of light-up decorations (and don’t have to put up with grumpy over-tired children who have had to stay up late to see them). While it’s important to stay within the boundaries of good taste and not go over the top, put plenty up and enjoy them.
Have you been asked to play Santa at the office/school party? Do you have the chance to earn some extra cash by being a department store Santa? Don’t turn this down. It does not mean that you will be hopelessly overdressed and running the risk of overheating by dressing up in thick fur-trimmed outfits when the thermometer is reading 30°C or more. The outfit is quite comfortable for the time of year.
Your memories of Christmas dinner probably involve barbecues, beaches, pavlova (topped with passionfruit, kiwifruit or strawberries – but we won’t get into the Great Pavlova Debate here), the first of the new potatoes, berryfruit in season, salads and making the most of a home vegetable garden in full production. Not over here. At this time of year, hot, filling food with plenty of carbohydrates – such as a Christmas pud and roast potatoes – makes good sense and is very comforting. The same goes with warm, spicy drinks like egg nog and mulled wine. Most of the vegetables you can find will be of the root vegetable or roast-em-up gourds like pumpkin. Make the most of these vegetables instead. However, the pavlova still makes a nice addition to the Christmas menu.
Sing old-fashioned Christmas carols. If you have the chance, get together with a few friends and go around the neighbourhood singing on street corners. “In the Bleak Midwinter” sounds much better sung on a cold, wet evening by lantern/candle/torch light than on a sweltering day than when you have to fan yourself with your sheet music and are thinking wistfully of swimming pools.
Listen to the Queen’s Christmas message. It will be much easier to do, as you no longer have to stay up late to hear it live.
Nick Vassilev founded Anyclean, his London based domestic cleaning company, back in 1998. Nick is an expert on cleaning and loves to help people with his cleaning tips, articles and knowledge. If you would like to know more about his cleaning company, please visit http://www.anyclean.co.uk.