When you are living abroad it may mean being creative, searching high and low and a dashing of compromise but British Christmases are there for the making. To create a British Christmas you need a few essential items. 8 to be exact.
1. Christmas Stockings
Roasted parsnips were a staple part of my Christmas meal as I was growing up. Ok, so you don't have to have parsnips on a British Christmas Day but for me it has become a symbol of Britishness on the Christmas dinner plate. This is because for so long I had to search high and low to actually find parsnips I could roast to go with the turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, sprouts and roast potatoes. These days parsnips are a lot easier to find in the Netherlands. And strangely enough they are usually Dutch grown......
3. Christmas crackers
|Photo Credit: Debbie Schiel|
Two people (or you can work it so Christmas crackers around the entire table are linked at the same time) pull one end each of the cracker. If you are lucky there is a bang and the contents fly across the table, or even the room. Each cracker contains a coloured paper hat, that since the year dot, has never ever fitted on my head because my hair is thick and curly. It rips instantly so it hangs off my head at a funny angle - but that is all part of the fun. There is also always a joke. Which is absolutely not funny. And all part of the fun. Like this one:
What says OH OH OH?
Father Christmas walking backwards.I'll give you a minute to put yourself back on your chair and compose yourself. And then there is some kind of novelty item ranging from a piece of plastic crap that no one can decide the purpose of to more useful, metal items in the posh, expensive crackers.
4. Christmas pudding
The traditional British dessert on Christmas Day is called (*drum roll*) Christmas pudding. It's a fruit and alcohol laden affair which is rich on the stomach and traditionally served with brandy butter, custard or cream - or all three if my Christmases growing up are anything to go by.
Some people make Christmas puddings themselves, steaming them for about a week (ok, it's a bit less than that but it needs many hours on the stove) as part of the preparations......but I have three children and a life so shop bought it is.
5. Mince Pies
6. Christmas Log
Continuing with the theme of unhealthy food you eat once a year..... a Christmas log is also very traditional. It's a chocolate roll cake decorated to look like a log, garnished with a sprig of holly, a little robin and the text 'Merry Christmas' in plastic gold letters. As a child, watching my mum make a Christmas log cake, and helping her put our little robin on top was the ultimate sign that Christmas was almost here. I am pretty sure my baking skills do not to extend to making a Christmas log, at least not one that looks anything like the ones of my childhood and as they are not readily available in Dutch shops (or even in Marks and Spencers here) my Christmases have been log free for many years.
7. Rubbish TV
Once everyone is stuffed full of all the above, there is a shuffle, with much groaning about belly ache, from the dining table to the sofas where everyone plops themselves down for the next British tradition on Christmas Day - crap television, or brilliant television - it depends how you look at it.
|Photo Credit: Melting Dog|
TV viewing schedules have been meticulously planned weeks in advance. What needs to be recorded? What will we be watching? It is also the time of year when reruns are perfectly acceptable and everyone sits and watches Love Actually, The Gruffalo and The Snowman once more, as well as Morecambe and Wise and classic Only Fools and Horses. But first.....
8. The Queen's Speech
Before anything else is watched, the nation traditionally tunes in to what the Queen has to say. Admittedly, there are less and less viewings each year. But nonetheless it remains a tradition, certainly among the older generation. Three o'clock, alcoholic beverage in hand, slumped on an armchair struggling to keep eyes open under the pretence of listening to her royal majesty.
So there you have it, the essential elements of a British Christmas.
What have I missed (aside from the traditional Christmas cake - I don't like it so I have ignored it - and pantomimes? What essential elements make up your Christmas where you live?