It’s the most wonderful time of the year… especially if you’re in London! The lights are all coming out, and the stores are decorated with festive trees, wreaths, and Christmas ornaments. I’m loving the general feel of it all; you can smell winter in the air, although some trees are still clinging to their leaves. I took a walk down Regent Street the other night, and it’s absolutely magical. Harrods is always fabulous, but in its Christmas best it’s better than being at the North Pole itself. I’m just loving everything about Christmastime in London, and I’ve been learning a couple of things about Christmas in England. First of all, how could I not try some mince pies? I was actually surprised to learn that “mincemeat” does not necessarily have meat in it! For those of you who don’t know, it’s mostly dried fruit, spices, and distilled spirits. It can have meat in it, but the variety I tried did not. The idea of meat and berries in the same pie is not an appetizing idea to me, but then again I haven’t had the opportunity to try it. In general, I liked the mince pie. It does have a very distinct flavor, not like anything else I’ve ever eaten (I mean that in a good way).
Another Christmas tradition I’ve observed, being sold in every supermarket, is Christmas crackers. For the Americans reading this, no, it doesn’t mean snowflake-shaped Ritz crackers. Christmas crackers are these things:
Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about this Christmas tradition: “A cracker consists of a cardboard tube wrapped in a brightly decorated twist of paper, making it resemble an over-sized sweet-wrapper. The cracker is pulled by two people, often with arms crossed, and, much in the manner of a wishbone, the cracker splits unevenly. The split is accompanied by a mild bang or snapping sound produced by the effect of friction on a shock-sensitive, chemically-impregnated card strip (similar to that used in a cap gun).” Why don’t we have these in the States??? We need to make this a thing. Imagine being around the dinner table on Christmas night like this:
So the lights, the mince pies, the crackers… everything is heading in the direction of December 25th (or as it would be written here, 25 December). Obviously, Thanksgiving is not an obstacle the marketers of Christmas goods have to overcome here in the UK, so Christmas shopping is in full swing. I’ll admit, I’ll very much miss the huge Thanksgiving feast with my family and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV, but I’m planning to have a little Thanksgiving feast of my own with both my American and British friends this Thursday. Some American traditions absolutely must be observed, no matter where in the world you are.
In addition, I hear the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park is pretty great! Something I’ll be checking out later this week…
To expand on what I’ve just mentioned, here’s a good BBC article on the differences between an English Christmas and a good old-fashioned American Christmas: http://www.bbcamerica.com/mind-the-gap/2013/12/04/christmas-traditions-britain-vs-america/
One funny little difference is the use of “Happy Christmas” here in the UK instead of “Merry Christmas,” which we’re used to hearing in the States. It seems like it should be the other way around, as “merry” isn’t a very common word in the American vocabulary…
Also, I was speaking to my British friend this week and found some more words to add to the list:
33.) turn signals (of a car)- indicators
34.) trunk (of a car)- boot
35.) hood (of a car)- bonnet
36.) windshield- windscreen
37.) RV/trailer- caravan
38.) bangs- fringe
39.) gasoline- petrol
40.) diaper- nappy
I’m so excited to see what other exciting Christmas markets and events I discover in London!