Last week I asked some of my students ‘How do you know when Christmas is coming?’. Their responses were many and varied, including the date, decorations go up, Santa’s grotto comes to town, the ads on TV change, people give cards and gifts, people sing Christmas carols and certain foods not eaten at other times of year become suddenly popular. Almost all of them mentioned the weather – when Christmas is coming it is cold, or it is snowing they said (no snow yet for London this year though, it is still too warm).
Just the other night we watched a Christmas special episode of Mock the Week, which included Australian comedian Adam Hills in one segment relaying a story about performing at the Royal Variety Show. He was telling the Queen that he was looking forward to returning to Australia for a “real Christmas”, where it would be hot.
This will be my fourth winter in the northern hemisphere, although only my third Christmas here. It took me a while to adjust to Christmas being in the winter, actually this year is probably the first time it is beginning to feel kind-of normal.
I grew up with Christmas being in summer, sometimes quite a hot day, warm at the very least. Christmas dinners are not necessarily focused on a large hot meal and mince pies are served cold. (I had my first hot mince pie a couple of weeks ago and it was certainly a revelation to me). Dessert includes ice-cream, not as a luxury but as a necessity to cool down. Fruit is also essential, especially perfectly in-season cherries.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been quizzing almost everyone I have come across about how they will spend Christmas day. Everyone has their own traditions, some celebrating on Christmas Eve, many returning to their home towns for family reunions and some simply going away on holidays. Like us, several of my acquaintances will be having a quiet day at home.
As public transport in London will be completely shut-down from Christmas eve afternoon until the morning of December 27th, and not many people I know here own a car, it makes it difficult to go visiting. This is the element of Christmas that I find the most difficult to grasp. In Australia my Christmas experience would usually involve several meals with different groups of people, all on the same day, requiring a certain amount of movement. Some years we have finished breakfast and morning tea then driven through lunch for some five hours, in order to have Christmas dinner with yet another part of the family. That is what I will miss the most this year, seeing all of my family. Thank goodness for Skype.
How do you spend Christmas?