1. Christmas Crackers – and not the edible kind! What’s better than a dinner party favor that provides enjoyment in 3 ways? First, the excitement and fun of popping them open with the person next to you (and startling the dogs). Second, adorning your head with the colorful, paper crown. And finally, seeing what cheesy gift is inside the cracker. Will it be a fake moustache? A plastic ring? A miniature horse? Basically it needs to be small, plastic and something little children could choke on to be a good Christmas cracker.
|Here I am modelling crown & toy from a Christmas cracker in 2009.|
2. Boxing Day – Typically occurring in commonwealth countries (UK, Canada, Australia, etc.) Boxing Day is a bank holiday on 26th of December. Part of the Christmas season, it often involves more eating (leftovers usually), seeing family and relaxing after the busy day that is Christmas. The history of Boxing Day is unclear and several theories exist. But whatever the case, it’s wonderful to enjoy this paid day off directly following Christmas Day.
3. TV vs Movies –In America, Christmas a big box office day for cinema. Blockbusters are released on Christmas day and you can enjoy going to the movies which I’ve done several times myself. However, in the UK the cinemas shut down completely. But in its place, there is a lot of expectation of Christmas TV, usually highlighted by special Christmas episodes of popular TV shows: Doctor Who, Downton Abbey and a generous helping of cheesy Christmas specials.
4. Christmas cards to everyone you know – this may be a very specific ‘Valerie Tanswell’ difference based on just my own experience. In America, it seems we mainly use Christmas cards to send greetings and holiday wishes to friends and family we don’t see very often. But in the UK, it seems you give Christmas cards to even those you see every day. “Good morning, Valerie, this is for you.”
6. Father Christmas – Santa Clause is also known as “Father Christmas” here. Side-note: it’s also common to wish someone a “Happy Christmas” instead of a Merry Christmas.
7. Close everything down – no Starbucks run in the morning (which was a very LA thing I used to do). No last minute runs to the grocery store to pick up forgotten bits. Good luck finding a petrol station that’s open. This country closes down on Christmas Day and you’d better be prepared!
8. The Queen’s Speech (Royal Christmas Message) - established in 1932, it’s the one time a year where the British Monarch communicates directly to the Commonwealth nations independently of any ministers or other government influences. Broadcast on Christmas day, Her Majesty will include milestones for the monarchy (her own “year in review”) and what Christmas means to her. Note: I’ve never watched one in full; they’re quite dull (forgive me die-hard Anglophiles).
|"1992...has turned out to be an 'Annus Horribilis. '"|
9. Not breaking the bank – overall I find the Brits less focused on having to give big presents than Americans. Everyone struggles at Christmas to manage their budgets, but Brits have a bit more grounded approach to gifts. I think Americans tend to show their love by how big the gifts they give are but it doesn’t seem Brits have that need to the same degree. At least not in my experience.
10. Food – Traditional American Christmas foods include turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie etc. British Christmas traditional food isn’t totally different from the US but there are a few very specific Christmas items that are different. Strangely all three of my examples include dried fruit. Ummm… okay.
|Mince pies – modern mince pies are small, sweet pies which include currants and spices. Best served warm.|
|Christmas pudding - Not pudding in the American traditional sense (in the UK, a pudding = dessert). It’s a cake made of dark sugars, currants and raisins and often a nice dose of alcohol (brandy for example). It’s served hot with custard or cream.|
Honorable mention goes to traditional English Panto which I’ve never seen myself but Wikipedia describes as, “a popular form of theatre, incorporating song, dance, buffoonery, slapstick, cross-dressing, in-jokes, topical references, audience participation, and mild sexual innuendo.”
What do you think? Are any of these a surprise? Do you agree with them? Have I missed anything important?