My first English Christmas


My first Christmas in England and I was at home for the entire period of the kids’ holiday.  It was the first time since my eldest was born that I was available for the whole holiday.  That can be a good or a bad thing.  The last time was by choice.  This time it was only partially by choice.  The other part was related to the difficulty in finding work during this recession.  Nevertheless, we strove to make it as special a Christmas as any other for the kids.  Of course, it did mean that many of their gifts were found in charity shops, etc. – not that they knew or cared.  They love shopping at charity shops themselves and they believe in Santa.

I cannot help comparing things in England with those in America, such as Christmas festivities and traditions.  We went to a Carol Service, beautifully rendered in an old church.  The Carol Services are found in America but they are quite limited.  Here, it seems every church has at least one Carol Service.  Another service that I have never experienced in the US is Christingle.  Unfortunately, we chose to travel to a distant cathedral for this service and were quite late.  However, we did arrive in time to receive the Christingle, an orange fruit with a candle on top and four toothpicks (supposed to be on each side) filled with sweets.  The service is similar to a Carol Service but seems more child-centered.  The Christingle is a symbol, where Christ is the light of the world (orange) and the four sticks represent the north, south, east, west.

The kids had wanted to go on a steam railway trip and meet Santa, but we could not make it.  We never did meet Santa this year.  But it was the first time we saw a pantomime in the great old British tradition.  We saw Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  Panto is silliness to the extreme and I was unsure how the kids would react, but they really were entertained.  I had been afraid they might have found it too childish.  I was pleased to see that they got into the spirit of things and interacted along with everyone else.  It certainly helped that some adults in the audience were very enthusiastic participants.

On Boxing Day, we had dinner at my in-laws.  It was the first time in our married life that we ever spent a holiday with extended family.  It was the first time I was across the ocean from my own family and it did not seem to make much difference on the timing of our Christmas mailing.  In fact, we still have undelivered gifts on both sides of the Atlantic.  Christmas cards were kept to an extreme minimum, partly because I still have not found my address book.  The “being green” campaign  has not exactly encouraged Christmas cards.  So, most people got a short email.  I did not even have time to write the “yearly” letter.

New Year’s Eve, we planned to go up to London for the countdown.  But the car decided it did not have enough gas to reverse out of the driveway.  So, we were stuck until the day after New Year’s to even get out of the house.

So, as always, our holidays were full of ups and downs.  We miss our former church’s annual Boar’s Head Festival.  It seems many, or most, people over here have no idea about that.  We think we need to remedy the situation.

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