My wife starts preparations for Christmas from the 1st January (in the January Sales); picking up any Christmas Crackers for next year, Christmas lights or trimmings that need replacing, and buying Christmas gifts for next Christmas, if any of these are any genuine bargains in the Sales e.g. items slashed to half price (or less) as the shops clear their Christmas stock.
Then, unless we see anything while on our holidays, that would make good Christmas presents, we don’t start thinking about Christmas again until September. Then from September we start to look for ideas for any Christmas presents for those that we still need to get; and sometimes we’re lucky enough to pick up some of what’s on our list during Black Friday week at a discounted price. So by the end of November we’ve got virtually all that we need, and we just pick up a last few items in the Christmas Markets early in December.
Our family tradition is that Christmas starts on the 1st Saturday of December, when we bring the Christmas tree in from the garden (if it’s survived the year), and spend the day decorating it and putting all the Christmas lights up around the living room and conservatory; and it end on the 12th Day of Christmas (6th Jan), when we take all our lights and trimmings down and put them back up in the loft.
From the 1st Saturday in December until Christmas Eve we then start to unwind; doing less jobs around the house and garden, and spending more time relaxing in front of the TV. Then Christmas proper starts from Christmas Eve when we close the doors from the outside world for the week until News Year Eve; just the family relaxing and indulging for the week (and occasionally a close friend).
In the week running up to Christmas my wife does all the baking e.g. Christmas cake, shortbread biscuits etc., and when the kitchen is free I’ll make a large batch of chocolate truffles for Christmas.
Then on Christmas Eve, after what is invariably has been a busy year; we all just lounge about for the day, relaxing and watching TV; a chance to start recharging our batteries, ready for any busy year ahead.
On Christmas day we all get up at the crack of dawn, have a light breakfast in front of the TV and then spend the rest of the morning opening presents (one at a time, taking it in turn to open each present). Then in the afternoon and evening we all watch TV together; while snacking rather than proper meals.
Boxing Day is when we have a proper Christmas Dinner, albeit not a Traditional Roast because I and my son are vegetarians; but we do have it with Brussel Sprouts freshly picked from our back garden that morning. And in the evening we then have the Traditional Christmas Pudding.
One of the programmes I look forward to watching on the telly over the Christmas week are the Annual Christmas Lectures on BBC by the Royal Institution in London; an organisation devoted to scientific education and research founded in 1799. This year’s Christmas Lectures (3 one hour episodes) is ‘Titled’ “Secrets and lies” and focuses on the hidden power of maths.
The Christmas Crackers, we usually keep for when we have friends around during the week, as a social evening. The Christmas Crackers my wife gets are the adult version so that they actually contain useful presents, such as a small tape measure, small screwdriver set etc.
So how does your Christmas go?
Like you, we shop for Xmas lights and wrapping paper right after Christmas. Perhaps a new miniature building for my wife's table top Christmas village.
Then not much until October or so, when gift buy begins to enter the mind. Black Friday may find some, but mostly it's online any more; crowds are just to much.
We may put outdoor lights and such up in November if the weather is nice. Otherwise, all decoration waits until after Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Outdoor decorations are turned on at the same time. From then until Christmas, Christmas movies are a staple. Charlie Brown, the Grinch, A Christmas Carol (several versions), etc. Mostly the old ones, but not always. Grandkids often visit and participate in this. We might sing some carols with the kids, too, as the Big Day approaches.
Baking the week before, just as you. I will get a grandkid or two to help me on the day before Christmas, when the deviled eggs and Rotten Egg Pie (google it if you must; links are forbidden) are made. One night during this period we'll drive around looking at lights and singing carols.
Christmas day we visit our son's house early for most of the gift opening, then head home to start the Christmas ham. My son and family will show up a little later and participate in cooking. Dinner is always with family and often friends - we're hosting dinner for 15 this year. As time between cooking is available, we will open the remainder of the gifts, mostly what we purchased for the rest of the family.
It is the highlight of the year for us. Times past have seen years without family, and it just isn't the same.
Cool: I’ve heard of ‘Devilled Eggs’ but never seen or tried one. In Britain ‘Scotch Eggs’ tends to be more popular; a hard-boiled egg, shelled, wrapped in sausage meat, coated in bread crumbs and baked or deep-fried. Although I’ve never heard of Rotten Egg Pie and couldn’t find anything about it on Google!
Like you we tend to do most of our shopping online these days, unless it’s an expensive item which we’ll want to inspect physically before we make a final decision. But we do love the Christmas Markets, and we try to choose a different one each year; we’ve done Bristol and Bath a few times, last couple of years we’ve done Wales, and this year we did the Exeter Christmas Market; as per video:-
Day Trip to Exeter Christmas Market (2019): https://youtu.be/bKjqQRa5NJ8
Yep, Christmas movies are also a staple for us; including the old ones like the Grinch, variations on ‘A Christmas Carol’, and the 1954 version of White Christmas etc. My wife isn’t happy unless she watches White Christmas on Christmas Day; so we have that on in the background in the morning while we’re opening our Christmas presents. The other highlight on the telly on Christmas Day (in previous years) is the Dr Who Christmas Special; but the BBC isn’t doing one this year (which is a shame).
And it is the highlight of the year for us to; so all in all it seems our Christmas is very similar to yours.
LOL Rotten egg pie is actually "No-Bake Banana Split Pie Recipe", which is probably why you didn't see it. It comes up with that title - google is picking up wording from the recipe when the search is for "rotten egg pie".
It's been a staple in my family for 3 generations (at least) - everyone buy my wife loves it. Especially the kids, as it's mostly sugar! I make 2 of them for 10 of us and although a small piece is enough at one sitting it's gone Christmas day.
Yes, I forgot A White Christmas - my wife loves that and we see it every year.
We used to do the Santa thing as well, taking the little ones to see Santa, writing letters to him and leaving out milk and cookies for him Christmas Eve. They're too old now, figuring it all out earlier this year, but we'll still have stockings and they still enjoy the whole Santa thing. My son started the "elf on the shelf" thing a few years ago and that was a big hit, too. The elf even came to our house once when the kids spent the night, riding our model train around the tree the next morning. Big discussions about how he knew where to go and how he got here!
We love Christmas, and we love how it brings family and the children to us. I wrote a hub years ago on the meaning of Christmas, to us, and it's been a big hit. Gotten to the point that this time of year it is often has the most traffic of any of my hubs. It dies most of the year, but it's interesting that so many people read it as Christmas approaches. There must be a ton of backlinks to it somewhere, because I can't imagine google picking it over actually informative articles.
I had some fun looking up the recipe for your ‘Rotten egg pie (No-Bake Banana Split Pie) on the web. After reading several recipes, I switched to YouTube for a better understand because several of the ingredients are unfamiliar to me e.g. graham crackers, Vanilla pudding mix and Heavy cream; then still not being much wiser I finally googled each of the three ingredients used.
• I’ve never heard of Graham crackers, but in Britain we would use Digestive Biscuits in the same way in recipes e.g. cheese cake.
• Likewise, never used pudding mix; but we do use custard powder, which has to be added to milk and stirred while heated on the stove until it thickens. Can then be eaten hot or cold.
• Heavy cream is another ingredient I’m not familiar with; in the UK we would tend to use whipping cream. According to Google, Heavy cream has greater than 36% milk fat, and whipping cream has less than 36% milk fat.
The recipe I found on YouTube for No-Bake Banana Split Dessert: https://youtu.be/qGCaQeUdEtI
My speciality for Christmas is the chocolate truffles; made with either lemon curd or jam: I make an equal amount of both versions, as they’re both lush. It’s a recipe I got a few years ago from a famous English TV chief (who likes to be adventures with his recipes).
The British Tradition (as well as the letter writing) is the milk and mince pies, rather than cookies. We never went quite that far ourselves with our son, but we did use to take him to see Father Christmas each year. The last time he went (before he got too old for it) was to the ‘Fry’s Chocolate Factory’ in Bristol; which was rather cool, because they also had a special queue for the parents to see Father Christmas, which we did, and father Christmas gave each parent a blue mug with Cadburys printed on the front and stuffed with an assortment of Fry’s Chocolate bars. It shows that even parents can be ‘big kids’.
I wasn’t familiar with the ‘elf on the shelf’ thing; but looking it up on Google, it looks rather cool.
Likewise, we love Christmas, and yes it does bring the whole family together; even our Australian cousins who skype us on Boxing Day every year for a family chat that usually lasts an hour. And from that annual chat, it inspired them to visit Britain this year for a three month tour around the UK; so we actually meet them for the first time in the flesh, which was wonderful.
I’ve noted your reference to your Christmas Hub on my ‘to-do’ list to visit it later in the week, when I’ve got a bit of spare time to read it properly; as it sounds interesting.
Yep, I’ve just finished reading your fantastic Christmas article, and I can see why it’s so popular at Christmas time. As you say, Christmas means different things to different people, and I agree with you that “Santa Is for the Secular, Too”; my son and I are atheists, and my wife is an agnostic, but we enjoy Christmas just as much as anyone else.
Wait, what exactly is a Christmas Cracker in your lingo? My first thought was real edible crackers and I was going to ask why you would want year-old crackers for the holidays. (I wasn't really going to criticize, you Brits can be a bit eccentric ;-)), but then you mentioned "adult version" and screwdrivers and tape measures and I am beginning to think your cracker might not be my cracker.
The ‘Christmas Cracker’ was invented by Tom Smith in London in 1847; and ever since has been part the British Christmas Tradition. No Christmas party or Christmas meal in Britain is complete without the crackers; even if you go out for a Works Christmas Meal (with your workmates), the restaurant will automatically lay a ‘Christmas Cracker’ in front of every placing at the table.
A ‘Christmas Cracker’ is a cardboard tube (about the size of a toilet roll tube) which is stuffed with a paper hat, corny joke and novelty gift. The tube is then wrapped with crepe paper, that’s twisted at the ends (like a sweet wrapper); with a couple of cardboard strips glued together and inserted down the middle of the tube.
When two people pull the cracker, it splits in half with one person still holding the tube with the prizes inside (50% chance that it’ll be you). When the cracker splits in two the cardboard strip in the middle pulls apart causing a snapping sound (mild bang) from the shock-sensitive chemical that the glued ends of the strip had been impregnated with.
Holiday Crackers, a UK Tradition! (An American tries Crackers for the 1st time): https://youtu.be/Se3z1tptQJE
Yep, (as you say) we Brits can be a bit eccentric: As they say “Mad Dogs and Englishmen”.
I have a firm holiday rule: No Christmas decorations until after Thanksgiving - period! And I definitely look down my nose at stores that put Christmas stuff out with their Halloween stuff.
Otherwise, my Christmas is about like yours. We usually light and decorate our tree with bulb ornaments in the second week of December, but we don't finish it until Christmas Eve when we have the kids over to put the family ornaments on, (the awws and ohhs and recollections make it a priceless evening), and the youngest kid tops the tree with a grandmother's Angel. Egg Nog and Deviled Eggs are a must.
This year there will be a slight change. My youngest will be 8 and 1/2 months pregnant. So I don't see her climbing a stepstool and stretching to reach the top of the tree. But no worries. I have a seven-year-old great-nephew that we have raised like a grandson that has volunteered for the job.
Christmas morning is also an early one for us. We get up for coffee and cinnamon buns and then it's off to watch our surrogate grandkids, (those two great-nephews), open their presents, and then back home to a day of cooking and relaxing as the kids and the surrogate grandkids come buy to see what Santa left under our tree.
Yes it’s interesting how different people start decorating at different times. Yes, the city and town centres in Britain are often criticised by some for turning on their Christmas Lights in the High Street far too early; albeit it is after Halloween e.g. Bristol turned on its city centre and city shopping centre lights this year on the 7th November, and London on the 14th November.
Although the Trafalgar Square Christmas tree lighting ceremony in London took place on the 5th December. A tradition to light the tree on the first Thursday in December that dates back to 1947, where since 1947 Norway always gives London a Christmas tree every year as a ‘thank you’ gift for Britain’s support of Norway during the 2nd world war.
Trafalgar Square Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony 2018: https://youtu.be/lj9BDHLOqeI
There are three reasons why we start Christmas in our family on the 1st Saturday in December:-
• My grandmother’s birthday was on the 5th, so that celebration tended to start the mark of Christmas anyway.
• On a Saturday, because that was the best day for us to go out and buy a Christmas tree. Although these days we buy one potted with roots, and try to keep it alive in the garden for as long as we can; which is usually a few years, largely dependent on the summer weather.
• To make the most of Christmas e.g. a month’s holiday rather than just a week or two.
Ah, coffee. Yep. For most of the year I make do with just ‘instant coffee’; but for Christmas and Easter I get out the filter coffee machine and grind up some fresh coffee beans; and at some point over Christmas and Easter I then also treat myself to the occasional ‘Irish Coffee’ (filter coffee with whiskey and cream). When we were last in Ireland on holiday I bought a couple of proper Irish coffee glasses, so that I can enjoy it in real style, rather than just drink it from a mug.
I have sometimes picked up bargains in the January sell off if I'm quick enough. More often now I have had enough of shops and avoid them for a while after December. With 4 children I used to keep my eye open for bargains through the year and hide them in the loft. If we're at home I make a Christmas cake in October, by which time lists and present buying gets into gear. Cards usually get written in November. Whatever I could buy in advance for food and drink I would. In the fortnight leading up to Christmas I made mince pies for the freezer, made a chocolate biscuit cake and marzipan and iced the Christmas cake. Years ago I remember meeting a friend in the queue on Christmas Eve as we waited for the supermarket to open to buy the fresh veg.
There's always an extended family party at some stage over Christmas. If it's at ours it takes some preparation. I'm off the hook this year with just a cake to make.
Christmas celebrations have evolved for me over the years. As a child with a father as a vicar I was immersed in Carol and church services. We had stockings Christmas morning before my father started work on the 1st of 3 services. Main presents waited until after lunch and the Queen's speech.
With our own family, I continued the tradition of stockings. They opened one bigger present which they took and showed at church. I was keen to go for them to know the real meaning behind the festivities. While we prepared lunch they happily watched a new video (thank goodness for Disney) and big present opening happened in the afternoon.
Now we have grandchildren we sometimes spend Christmas away from home and fit in with their routine.
Yep: my wife also makes the Mince Pies in the fortnight leading up to Christmas; and then she makes and decorates the Christmas cake the weekend before Christmas. She also makes the shortbread biscuits at the same time as the Mince Pies; and the shortbread biscuits she makes just crumble and melts in your mouth, so it’s one biscuit I don’t dunk; normally I like dunking my biscuits in coffee.
As I was writing this our ‘free-range farm eggs’ arrived for Christmas; local farm produce ‘free home delivery’. Normally we just buy the British Lion Eggs from the supermarket, because they are cheaper; but for special occasions we do treat ourselves to a dozen free-range farm eggs from our local supplier.
We start by making the annual claim that this is "the year" where we'll get everything done early for Christmas. We symbolically begin this process by putting a wreath on our front door and putting up the outdoor Xmas lights the weekend after Thanksgiving.
A few days later, we drag all the boxes of indoor ornaments/decorations/etc. down from the attic, but forget to bring down the tree.
A week later, we go back up for the tree and put up in the corner. Once we light it, we let it sit for a couple of days till the kids feel like decorating it. The empty ornament boxes are hauled to the top of stairs, where they will sit till after Valentines' Day. My wife will then spend every spare minute obsessively adjusting and correcting the positions of ornaments/lights/tinsel, etc. until the tree looks "right." (note: this will never actually occur.)
While all this is going on, we eventually realize we've waited far too long to start shopping and are forced to go to a Wal-Mart on a Saturday. We then wonder why the stores are out of everything.
Once the shopping is done, I marvel at how much I still suck at gift wrapping even after all these years.
Our extended family comes to our house on Christmas Eve for an overnight stay. My most important job here is to make sure the beer supply is well stocked.
On Christmas Day everyone exchanges gifts, eats food, drinks beer, and eventually goes into a coma in front of the television.
On the 26th after everyone's gone home, we sit back and say "Woohoo, we pulled it off again!"
One of our friends makes their own wreath which they then put up on their front door; but that’s something we’ve never done. I’d love to put up some outdoor Xmas lights, but that’s something I’ve never actually done because our house being ‘All’ brick makes it difficult to hang things from; and I’m not too keen on getting up and down on the ladder to drill hooks into the brick work to hang lights from.
You just reminded me, I’ve got put all our empty ornament boxes back into the loft before Christmas; at the moment they are still stacked up in our dining room.
I know the feeling about the gift wrapping (apart from my own presents) my wife gives me all the presents to wrap, in spite of the fact that it’s something I’ve never mastered, so it’s not done very professionally; but I guess it’s the ‘thought that counts’.
I love Christmas Season! Here in PR is a big thing so is basically three months of party, family and food. LOL
I usually decorate after Thanksgiving.
This year was supposed to be so special. Our first Christmas with children...
Erm. Pneumonia for the whole family twice in a month... Plus influenza. Yay.
So I have no idea what day it is anymore. LOL
I dislike shopping and do most of mine online. This year someone in the family suggested a Secret Santa, so I needed to buy a gift for only one adult plus gifts for my grandchildren.
In my house, we decorate the tree( a real fir) as late as possible in December and always leave the decorations in place until twelfth night. We decorated the house a little early this year as we are off to Aberdeenshire on Sunday (7.5 hour drive - excluding breaks!) to spend the festive season with my youngest son and his family - we will visit Santa and his reindeer on Christmas Eve and no doubt be dragged out for walks in the pine forest most days. Posted the last of the Christmas cards today!
I'm mindful that Christmas can be a very lonely time for some people. It would be lovely to believe that if anyone reading this knows of a person who will be alone on Christmas Day they might invite that person into their home - as my daughter-in-law will no doubt do.
Merry Christmas and peaceful 2020 to all
Wow, Aberdeenshire is quite far north, I imagine it could be quite cold this year; I have a low tolerance to the cold, so even when wrapped up warm, I still suffer when it drops below 10c, and especially so when temperatures drop below zero (freezing point), and there’s a bitterly north or north-east wind.
So although I couldn’t walk in the pine forest at this time of year without discomfort from the cold; I would love to see the forests during the summer months. When we went on holiday in Northern Ireland during the spring a few years ago my had to buy me a proper skiing jacket and thermal sleeveless under jacket just so that I could withstand the climate in the Mourne Mountains (where our holiday cottage was), even though it never dropped much below 10c.
Yes, we should think of those living on their own at this time of year. We have an open invitation to a friend of ours who now lives on his own, so he’s staying with us overnight, the day after Boxing Day, while making a quick visit to Bristol to see family. When he arrives, we’ll have a cup of coffee and a chat, and then spend the next hour exchanging presents. Then in the evening, during our main meal, we’ll pull Christmas crackers with him.
I too dislike cold weather. In Aberdeenshire it seems to rain more often than not! But nevertheless, if Scotland is successful in gaining independence as a consequence of Brexit, I may move north permanently.
(I see that the rain has brought problems in the SW - hope you are not suffering from flooding in your area! My sister,who lives down there is hoping to make her customary trip to Wincanton races on Boxing Day).
It’s rained virtually every day here (in the South West) ever since early October. No flooding problems, and no risk of floods in our area because Bristol is situated in a basin (surrounded by hills), with the Cumberland basin being the lowest point so that, as well as the sophisticated network of drainage (largely Victorian) to safely take away the surplus rain water, the ground water (water table) naturally finds its way to the basin from where it eventually ends up in the sea.
The Cumberland basin is manmade, constructed in 1809 to divert the tidal river Avon away from the floating Bristol docks, and control water flow. In its 200 years of life, the Cumberland Basin has proven to be very effective in doing its job of preventing floods and keeping water levels at a constant height for the docks in the centre of the city; a brilliant piece of Victorian Engineering.
Beside, because Bristol is in a basin, the further away from the city centre you are the higher you are e.g. although we’re only five miles from the city centre we’re 200 feet higher up than the city centre; so there is nowhere for rain water to collect in volume between us and the Cumberland Basin during periods of heavy rain when the ground becomes saturated and the water table is high.
That’s not a bad idea, I hadn’t thought of emigrating to Scotland if/when they gain Independence; but now you mention it, it certainly is an appealing idea, if it wasn’t for Scotland being a much colder climate.
Where we might have more scope is the Republic of Ireland. Both my wife and son now have dual nationality with the Republic of Ireland because my wife’s father was born in Northern Ireland. So they have the option to move to the Republic of Ireland anytime they wish. The main problem is that I don’t have any Irish Ancestors so it might not be so straightforward for me to immigrate to the Republic of Ireland, as I would be subject to the same immigrations rules as everybody else that don’t have Irish citizenship.
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