So I have had my first English Christ-mas. And a very English Christ-mas it was. I spent Christ-mas Eve, Christ-mas day, and Boxing day (the day after Christ-mas) with my boyfriend James, and his family. They were amazing and made me feel so welcome. I definitely missed my family, but I felt very blessed to be with a lovely family who were so generous in sharing their Christ-mas with me!
There was a carol service held a few minutes’ walk down the road near the Bournville Cadbury factory, home of Bournville dark chocolate. It is the biggest carol service in the West Midlands. A few thousand people came out to sing. Many people brought lanterns and raised them up on long poles, quite a sight. The bells of the bell tower were played manually to the tune of the carols. I was surprised by the number of carols I didn’t know, the ones I knew but were sung to a different tune, and the ones I thought I knew but had different words at times. I thought carols were pretty much always the same..
Christ-mas dinner was like a “Sunday roast” as they have here. With ham and turkey, and roast potatoes, parsnips, carrots, etc. And of course some mulled wine, a very popular Christ-mas time drink, which I have grown to enjoy. It is warm wine with fruits such as apples and lemons (my favorite combination) or spices, like German glühwein. I also lit the Christmas pudding on fire. On purpose. Christmas pudding is a traditional dessert (or pudding, as they say here. I had to explain what pudding meant in America, it was confusing all-around). It is made of mixed dried fruit and alcohol and is the texture of thick jam. It can be made weeks in advance, similar to fruitcake. Before eating it, it is common to pour brandy over it had set it on fire. It being my first Christmas pudding, I got to set it alight. I tried a bit, it was very weird. I’m told it’s an acquired taste. It is somewhat similar to mince pie, which I’ve had on many occasions over the past several weeks. (Mince pies are a very popular during the weeks leading up to Christ-mas. My friends couldn’t believe I had never had it before).
We also got to pull Christmas crackers. It looks like a wrapped Christ-mas present. One person holds each side and pulls. Once pulled, they make a popping sound and split apart. Inside, there is a paper crown, a joke, and a little gift. Whoever gets the bigger side of the cracker gets the gift inside. I really like the Christmas crackers and struggle to not pull them before it’s time.
Christ-mas morning I found a “Christmas sack” full of gifts for me! The Willetts’ family all pitched in and bought gifts for me. It was a great surprise, and so sweet of them. I can’t say enough about how great they have been. Later on I Skyped my family and opened the gifts they had sent me. I don’t know what I would do without Skype! (I Skyped them again later on, until 2am my time, a 6 hour time difference can make for some late nights!)
Boxing day (an actual bank holiday) was low key. We played Would You Rather (thanks mom) and Wii bowling, watched Bugsy, and drank lots of tea. We went American for a bit when I introduced them to candy canes (a “novelty sweet” here). Once we made hot chocolate and put our candy canes in it Christ-mas felt more complete.
I have really enjoyed experiencing Christ-mas in a different culture. It isn’t worlds different, but there are plenty of fun little differences to learn about and take part in. I look forward to these new experiences continuing in 2012 and beyond!
Merry Christ-mas from the UK!