Sometimes I just want to bang my American head against my rented Victorian terrace house wall and fling all my Mr. Kipling mince pies at my window in my frustration with my airport delays. The pie box says they are ‘exceedingly merry’–I am so not feeling that way now as I am missing my holidays with my family. I am raising my hand and admitting that now I am having a very ungraceful moment as I am stranded in the UK as my flight getting home to America three days ago was cancelled. Long story short I am still trying to get on a flight home. For those of you stranded in the UK with the current weather conditions of snow and cancelled flights (like me), this advice from our archives will keep you informed about the possibilities of spending Christmas in the UK– or some observations about a British Christmas.
As you readers know, Christmas in Britain brings on its own wacky traditions… no one tells you these things as an American in Britain that you might encounter:
The Grotto: No, not a ghetto, not Santa’s grotty. But a GRAW-DO…Yeah, I was confused at first, too. Yes, here in Britain Santa lives in a cave called a grotto. Not a cottage! Not a cabin! Not a wonderland!Yes, grotto sounds like a dirty word but really, it is a place meant for little children to visit Santa. Don’t ask.
Christmas crackers: Under no circumstances should you win the Christmas cracker if you are pulling it with your well-meaning British Sister-in -law, her kids, or your mother-in-law. Trust me. Monitor your pulling effort and just let them ‘win’ the cracker. Do you really want cheapo nail clippers anyway? And don’t be fooled by the “Marks and Spencer Luxury Crackers” either, they have nail clippers in them, too. I would like to add however that I have started a very nice collection of wire silver egg cups from Christmas cracker winnings.
The Christmas Hat– You might pull your Christmas Cracker too hard (to not win requires lots of practice) and you may need to put on the flimsy colored paper-hat inside. Depending on the British family you are with will dictate if you are required to do so. You need to be aware that yes, you will look ridiculous in a bright-orange-tissue-paper-crown. But if everyone else puts it on and you don’t you will look like a big stick in the mud and that is definitely a social no-no.
Style your hair so that it would look good with a bright-orange-tissue-paper-crown on top. Maybe you could plan ahead to coordinate your Christmas day outfit so that it would match these common Christmas hat colors: Red, Bright green, dark purple, bright yellow, bright orange, and dark blue or black. Pray that you get the black hat if you do pull too hard and win the Christmas cracker– it looks more suave then the other colors.
The Queen’s Speech: You should be prepared to watch the Queen’s Speech, regardless of what you think of the Royal Family. My soon to be mother-in-law has tons of collectible “Royal Plates” on her wall so I know it is going to be a given. Although some British families (probably not many) do not watch the Royal Christmas message, but just be prepared to stop your Christmas dinner to watch.
Or, your Christmas dinner will revolve around the Queen’s speech timed to absolute perfection when the teas and coffees are served (oh those Brits are so organised!!). Practice some lines beforehand saying nice things about the Queen even though her speech might seem fake, over-rehearsed and out of touch with reality. Easy for her to say: “I hope all the hungry children in the world get food to eat this Christmas”– she lives in a castle for heaven’s sake! Your British family will probably also agree she shouldn’t say such things since she is swimming in money but have learned to keep their traps shut in this matter.
Boxing Day: Just when you thought Christmas was over comes along Boxing day. You’ve gotta think positive: you have made it this far and at least you are not at work like a lot of American employees back home! Yet, it is another day where everyone sits around in a food coma and eats lots of left-over beef and mincers while watching football matches you probably don’t give a hoot about. Around this point you might have had a few scuffles with your British partner and their family, probably unintentionally and probably about topics like their mother-in-law offending you, and what time you are going to leave.
A lot of British families like to take walks in the country on this day– you could fake a headache or indigestion if the thought of that is not appealing. At that point Christmas is about over anyway. And you will have made it through. Score!
Thanks for reading and Happy Christ– I mean, Merry Christmas! And fingers crossed to get myself home for Christmas….or lord help the mincers and my windows.