by Stephen Andrews
Christmas is almost here again! In the UK, it’s a great excuse for eating loads of yummy food, drinking far too much wine and over-indulging in watching the telly (TV) with the Christmas films like ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary’, ‘Die Hard’ and ‘Love Actually’ repeated once again!
Christmas, Xmas, or Crimbo?
The word Christmas comes from Christ-Mass, the Church service that celebrated the birth of Jesus. But Christmas is also sometimes known as Xmas, pronounced exactly the same as “Christmas” – not “ex-mas”. You’ll also often hear people abbreviate Christmas to “Crimbo” when they’re chatting.
Most towns in the UK are decorated with Christmas lights and London is one of the best places to see them in places like Oxford Street, Covent Garden and Regent Street. This year, to save energy, Oxford Street has 5,000 star-shaped decorations which shine for a slightly shorter period each day to cut energy consumption in the midst of the UK’s cost of living crisis. Also, the stars are made from 300,000 LED lightbulbs made from recycled polymer, which are 75% more efficient than standard lightbulbs.
The Christmas Tree
In the UK, a beautifully decorated tree is at the heart of Christmas. People add lights, baubles, tinsel, ornaments and a ‘topper’ – a star at the very top – to make a magical display. They might also put up Christmas decorations on the walls of their living room and a colourful holly wreath on their front door. A whopping 8 million Christmas trees are sold in the UK every year and 6ft is the most popular height.
At Christmas time you might see small choirs in the street singing Christmas carols. A carol is a religious song and popular ones include ‘Ding Dong Merrily On High’ or ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’. Of course, there are lots of other popular Christmas songs like ‘Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer’ and ‘Jingle Bells’ and when you’re out and about, you’re bound to hear pop songs like Wham’s ‘Last Christmas’ or Slade’s ‘Merry Xmas Everybody!’ playing in shops!
As everyone knows, Santa Claus is real. He spends all year making presents for every person in the world – that’s about 8 billion gifts! How does he do it? Then, when Christmas comes, he loads up his reindeer sleigh and flies round the planet delivering them, quicker than even Amazon or DHL! His actual delivery method is quite unusual since he has to squeeze down the chimney. So it can be a bit tricky for him if you don’t have one. Rather than hanging stockings above the fireplace, British children hang them at the end of their bed hoping they’ll be filled by Christmas morning. Of course, they always are because Santa – who, as I say, really does exist – wouldn’t want to disappoint anyone, would he?
Most people in Britain have their Christmas dinner at lunchtime or early evening. It’s traditionally a big family affair where everyone tucks into lots of food and drinks lots of wine and beer – and then falls asleep in front of the TV. A roast turkey or chicken are the most popular choices as the main dish. These are served with stuffing and gravy, sometimes pigs in blankets, Yorkshire puddings, cranberry sauce, bread sauce, roast potatoes, carrots and Brussels sprouts. It’s all finished off with Christmas pudding or ‘pud’, a pudding served with flaming brandy, custard or cream. You might even have a slice of Christmas cake, usually a fruitcake covered in icing. A typical British Christmas dinner contains billions of calories! But if you’re still hungry after all that, you could also have a mince pie!
Everyone loves a Christmas cracker! The typical British cracker contains a little gift and usually a very bad joke hidden inside. When pulling a cracker, each person crosses their arms, using their right hand to hold their cracker, and pulls their neighbour’s cracker with their left. The cracker makes a bang and then a small trinket spills out along with the joke and a paper hat. British Dads totally love wearing them, especially when they’re a bit drunk.
The King’s Christmas Message
Christmas won't be the same without Queen Elizabeth II. Her Christmas Speech was one of the highlights of Christmas in the UK. Now, for the first time, it will be given by King Charles and he’ll no doubt speak about losing his mother. We’ll have to wait and see if he has the same warmth and twinkle as Elizabeth.
The day after Christmas day is a nationally recognised bank holiday in the UK. Starting in the Middle Ages, Boxing Day was the day when church alms boxes – collection boxes for money – were traditionally opened and the contents distributed to poor people. So it’s got nothing to do with the sport of boxing! Although originally a very religious day, Boxing Day is now basically a big shopping day in the UK, when shops have special sales.
There’s so much to enjoy in the UK during the festive season, so, whatever you’re doing and wherever you are, have a fantastic Crimbo!