In this post, I’m going to talk about the little things about Christmas in the UK that I cherish most. Some of them may be quite well known, while others are not. Indeed, the first item on my list is something that I wasn’t aware of until this year. This post is part of the Christmas in Different Lands series being run by Multicultural Kid Blogs.
1. Christmas Jumper Day
In recent years, it has become ‘in’ to own and wear a Christmas jumper. These sweaters typically portray a winter scene (e.g. snow coming down on a hillside) or feature pictures of Santa Claus, reindeer or penguins. They are a bit retro and kitsch, but they have apparently somehow gained a sort of coolness. My wife has some cousins who always go to a local pub on Christmas day where they compete against another family to see who can wear the most tasteless Christmas jumper.
At our work Christmas meal this year, at which I was wearing the highly tasteful Christmas jumper pictured on the left, one of my colleagues mentioned that there is now an annual Christmas Jumper Day. This year it fell on Friday 13th December. The idea is that schools, colleges and workplaces encourage people to wear a Christmas jumper on the day and donate at least £1 to Save the Children, a charity that seeks to promote children’s health and education around the world. I think it’s great to have this sort of event that encourages people to give something that can really make a difference to people who are in poverty or facing other hardships (…which reminds me that I have a bag of old clothes and DVDs that I need to take to a local charity shop).
2. Christmas crackers and Christmas cracker jokes
Pulling Christmas crackers before tucking into a festive meal, especially lunch on Christmas Day, is a bit of a tradition here in Britain. Christmas crackers are made of cardboard tubes wrapped in shiny paper. One person pulls on each end, and the crackers snap making a small bang due to a thin paper banger inside them. When they break, the person who ends up with the larger part of the cracker gets to keep the contents (typically a paper crown, a joke that they have to read out and a small novelty or toy).
Christmas crackers are renowned for containing jokes that some people see as not being of a particularly high quality. I quite like these and have been tweeting a Christmas cracker joke on Twitter (@j_ervine) every day during the month of December using the hashtag #ChristmasCrackerJokes. Here are a few of my favourites:
What did Santa say to the smoker? Please don’t smoke, it’s bad for my elf!
What do angry mice send each other in December? Cross mouse cards!
What do reindeer hang on their Christmas trees? Horn-aments!
You’re probably all groaning as much as laughing, but I do enjoy these jokes from time to time. Christmas jokes are generally fairly predictably bad, but there’s something about them that I can’t quite put my finger on that I really like about them. If you want to hear a few more festive rib-ticklers, click on this link.
3. Watching A Child’s Christmas in Wales
I’ve heard quite a few discussions about favourite Christmas films recently. For me, a 1980s telefilm called A Child’s Christmas in Wales tops the list. I remember watching it on television during Christmas 1988 with my parents and the charm of the adventures based on Dylan Thomas’s short story of the same name in which what happens at Christmas is told from the innocent and somewhat romanticized perspective of a child. In the telefilm, a grandad played by the actor Denholm Elliott tells his grandson about his memoires of Christmas time back when he was growing up.
For years, we relied on an old VHS recording of the 1989 television broadcast of A Child’s Christmas in Wales but last year I managed to get hold of a DVD copy. It’s impossible to find a UK DVD version, but the fact that the telefilm was a Welsh-Canadian co-production means that a North American DVD version exists. Last year, I watched the DVD as my wife and I geared up for what was my first ever Christmas in Wales since moving to work here in 2007.
4. Being a vegetarian and the culinary freedom it brings
For many people in the UK, a turkey is the centre-piece of the main Christmas meal that is eaten at lunchtime on December 25th. However, this is something that I have never tasted as I was brought up as a vegetarian and remain one today. I like the freedom to pick and choose a bit more when it comes to the Christmas menu without feeling the need to be traditional. Vegetarian Christmas dishes that I have enjoyed eating include a vegetable pine nut roulade that my mum used to make on a regular basis.
Nut roast is another vegetarian festive classic although I feel that it can sometimes be a bit bland. For that reason, I quite like Masala Nut Roast which includes quite a few spices as well as the nuts and vegetables. Last year, when my wife and I were hosting both sets of parents, we made Masala Nut Roast and served it with a spicy tomato gravy, roast potatoes and a stir-fried Brussels sprout and tofu side dish. Sprouts are a very traditional – it not universally popular – Christmas vegetable in the UK. They really benefited from being sliced and stir-fried in this recipe that also includes mushrooms, tofu and chilli sauce.
5. Good company and good food
I guess that this last point is not really UK-specific at all, but it is certainly the most important. In a lot of ways, what I enjoy most about Christmas is relaxing and spending time with family and friends. Even though I may now be in my mid-30s, I still do get a sense of excitement about Christmas and I really enjoy some of the special foods such as Plum Pudding and Christmas Cake.
This year will be my first since becoming a parent in April and my wife and I will be staying with her relatives in the south east of England and introducing our 8 month old son to many of them for the first time. I was thinking that he’s bound to be happy as long as he can play with the wrapping paper, but a recent post on The Ugly Volvo blog humorously suggested that there are a lot of other things that babies of this sort of age really want to get their hands on at Christmas. I’m not entirely sure what to expect but I’m looking forward to it all and am sure that it will be special!
What did you think of this post and what do you like most about celebrating Christmas? Feel free to share your views in the comments section below or on the ‘Dad’s The Way I Like It’ pages on Facebook or Google+.
There’s also now a Pinterest board for this blog as well, so please feel free to pin this post if you’ve enjoyed reading it – here’s the link to its pin: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/428827195740284268/