So, what’s a British, English Christmas like? Every year I am asked the same questions; How is it different to a Czech and Slovak Christmas? What do you eat? Does Ježíšek come to the U.K.? Who the hell is that fat guy in the red suit? (But not that last one.)
Well, here you are. The answers to all your questions and more, such as, my favorite Christmas food and do I prefer Czech or English Christmases?
Christmas in England usually follows a traditional pattern, whether you are religious or not. If you are religious then it will certainly involve going to church. If you are not religious it might still involve church depending on how guilty you feel.
Of course, I can only really tell you about my personal experiences, which were both of the above, my mother going to church and my father going… nowhere near it.
The week before Christmas I used to enjoy carol singing with a friend and then on Christmas Eve we presented the money to the local church to give to charity (which I’m sure they did).
So, there is our first difference; for us in Britain the 24th is Christmas Eve and not what we call Christmas Day as you do in The Czech Republic and Slovakia. Christmas Day for us is the 25th, more on that in a minute. Christmas Eve is still a working day for many people and for many of my friends it was also the day they bought their first underage alcoholic drink in a pub.
I didn’t start going out to the pub on Christmas Eve until a little later when I was about eighteen or nineteen years old but the tradition still continues to this day although in a less wild fashion. Back in the day it involved a pint and/or a shot in every pub over a 2 or 3 km course with about twelve or thirteen pubs along the route before finishing in a curry house. We ended the night either falling into a taxi or making the long, wobbly walk home again. These days, a more sedate pace involves two or three pubs and a lot less drinking and walking. It is, however, great to meet up with many old school mates whom I haven’t seen since the last Christmas Eve I was out.
When we were children of course, it was a very different story. After the short, carol singing church service we went home, had tea (evening meal) and hung stockings by the fireplace, went to bed and tried to stay awake to see Father Christmas (Santa Claus) bringing out presents. Usually we fell asleep long before delivery. Clever Santa.
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When we were very young we woke up very early, 2:30am was the record but more usually around 5 or 6am. We then pestered our parents to get up so that we could get more presents from them. Here is our next difference. While you only receive your presents from Ježíšek, we get presents from Father Christmas and from each other. Only the most eagle-eyed children might notice the same wrapping paper on the presents.
Around 11am my mum would go to pick up the olds (Grandma and my uncle Harold – more on him in a later post) and another round of present giving would ensue. One o’clock – Christmas dinner. Now, I’m sorry, I don’t want to offend anyone here but carp and potato salad, is not my idea of a Christmas dinner. Don’t get me wrong I am learning to enjoy it and every year I do enjoy it more but I am still craving this…
Then with bloated stomachs it’s a local walk and then a bit of television; always a new TV film premiere suitable for all the family. Uncle Harold likes to watch the Queen’s speech but he’s pretty much on his own for that in our house. 5pm is tea time, that’s roast ham, pork pies, turkey sandwiches and Christmas cake. The evening is more drink, nut cracking, board games then sleep.
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Boxing Day, yes, the 26th is also a holiday in England and for many families it’s straight to the sales in the shops. For my family it’s about sport. Boxing Day always has football matches and this year Sunderland (my team) are away at Manchester United. Sometimes we go horse racing with my mum. Boxing Day has nothing to do with boxing though and is probably named after the giving of boxes (presents) to servants, staff, errand boys and postmen in the 1800’s.
And that is basically my English Christmas. Any other questions? Ask below and I’ll answer them for you. How are you spending your Christmas? In a traditional Slavic way? Low key or big party? I love to read your comments.
Merry Christmas. See you next week with a preview of 2017 and what to look forward to in the new year.