Christmas in Britain
Christmas is my favourite time of the year. In December, London transforms from a busy business centre into a magical fairy tale. The best way to get the spirit of Christmas in London is to take an evening walk through Covent Garden towards Bloomsbury or simply go to Regent Street.
As a Russian Orthodox, I used to celebrate Christmas on January 7th, which we believe was Jesus’s date of birth. For most Russians Christmas is a religious celebration so apart from going to church you don’t really do much. Some might have a light family dinner and then go to bed. For me, Christmas always meant it was time to go back to school or university. New Year was what I was looking forward to instead. If you are curious to know more, I have a post where I talk about Russian Christmas and New Year at great length.
I’ve lived in London for a few years now and, with the help of my English family, I now know what a real British Christmas looks like.
When do British people put their Christmas tree up?
The earlier the better or just having it on display all year round is my personal preference. But British people are very pedantic with their Christmas and won’t let it stick around for too long. To be more precise, they put up their tree in December and take it down on the 12th day of Christmas which is January 6. According to the old tradition, if your Christmas tree is still up on January 7, it will bring bad luck into your home. My husband is English and superstitious so with sadness on my face, and tears in my eyes, I follow this tradition.
At least there are no restrictions as to when you should get the tree out of your attic or, if it’s real, buy from a market. You’ll probably look like a fool if your Christmas lights start flashing in July, but if you are as impatient as me, then December 1st is the earliest people start bringing Christmas into their home.
As my family is quite small I don’t find Christmas preparations very stressful. A few presents, a couple of Christmas cards, a food delivery booked in advance and I am all sorted.
Every year I get an advent calendar to start counting down the days. Luckily apart from a traditional chocolate one you can now get beauty, booze and many DIY calendars.
To get me into the spirit of a British Christmas my husband offers to read to me Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol to me. I find it really cute. We never do this in Russia. Once we’ve got children I hope he’ll read it to them too and I could accompany it with a Christmas carol tune played on the piano.
I tend to buy presents quite early to avoid the last minute rush. Otherwise you just end up fighting over leftovers that could become a potential gift. Wrapping presents is the key aspect of British Christmas. And if I want to become fully British, I really need to improve my wrapping skills.
Perhaps you also want to set a family tradition that you will follow every year and then pass it onto your children. One of them is to buy one Christmas decoration every year to add in your little collection.
All shops are closed on Christmas Day which helps to focus on spending time with family, go for a long walk and have a big Christmas meal afterwards. That’s us with our pretty Christmas stockings full of amazing presents.
Traditionally people here roast a big goose or, more recently, turkey with potatoes and veg on the side. For desert they stock up with biscuits and get a Christmas pudding and a trifle. Watching Christmas movies is something I really enjoy doing with my family. Every year I make a list of all the films I fancy watching and for this Christmas here they are.
On Boxing day most Brits rush to the shops to snap up a bargain whilst my family and I belong to a group who stay at home. We choose to play board games and get out for a walk. A trip to the theatre or pantomime is also a tradition in Christmas week.
I absolutely love Christmas and anticipate the new upcoming year with all the exciting things that lie ahead.