Late December marks the beginning of the Winter Holiday in the UK, especially amongst students. Thinking about my chances of studying in the UK, I felt very curious about how it would be like to spend Christmas in Britain and therefore, I searched for some British traditions, in hope of learning something more about whether I would enjoy being in the UK during such festive times.
To begin with, I was already expecting to find out that the Xmas tree is never missing from people’s homes. Moreover, there is also the usual habit for people to decorate their houses as well, not only the Christmas tree. Decorations include Holly, Ivy and the Mistletoe, which are a sign of prosperity and good luck. In addition, most streets, cities and villages are dressed up for celebration with Christmas lights. Perhaps the most impressive of all are the Xmas lights on Oxford Street in London. Thousands of people watch how these are switched on at the beginning of November.
Similarly to other countries, Nativity Plays and Christmas Carols are very popular during this time of the year and bring with them the merry festive spirit. On Christmas Eve, children wait for Santa Claus to leave presents either in their red stocking or in their pillow cases, which are normally hung up by the fireplace or by their beds. Prior to this, children write letters to Father Christmas/Santa listing their requests, but sometimes instead of putting them in the post, the letters are tossed into the fireplace. The draught carries the letters up the chimney and Father Christmas/Santa reads the smoke.
In the UK, the main Christmas Meal is usually eaten at lunchtime or early afternoon on Christmas Day. It’s normally roast turkey, roast vegetables and ‘all the trimmings’ which means vegetables like carrots & peas, stuffing and sometimes bacon and sausages. It’s often served with cranberry sauce and bread sauce. The dessert usually includes the Christmas pudding, but mince pies and chocolate are not to be missed either. Moreover, the UK is also famous for Christmas Cake – it is traditionally a rich fruit cake covered with marzipan and icing – and often top with Christmas themed cake decorations like a sprig of holly. The Xmas table is nicely decorated with a Christmas cracker for each person and sometimes flowers and candles.
Perhaps the only thing that lacks is the snow. It rarely snows in the UK, more often in the North than in the South though. This is why you should know that when the British expect and mention a White Christmas, they actually refer to seeing a single snowflake within the 24 hour period on the 25th of December.
All in all, the UK is very welcoming when it comes to celebrating Christmas and I remember that I really looked forward to experiencing this first hand in my first year at university.