Christmas in the UK for the uninitiated

 

Although we are based in the UK we are very much an international company. At this moment in time we are working with clients based in the UK, Ireland, Belgium, France, Spain, Switzerland, East and West coasts of the USA and Japan; so an understanding of cultural differences is important. Christmas is obviously a festival celebrated differently around the globe, and in the UK we celebrate Christmas in all sorts of ways; some of our customs and traditions we share with other countries (think mistletoe, candy canes and gingerbread), while others are unique to these British Isles. To the uninitiated they may first appear strange and unconnected with the season, but for us they make perfect sense and go hand in hand with Christmas, much like how tea is an excellent accompaniment to toast.

Here is an explanation for a few of our Christmas traditions:

The Queen's Christmas Message

After the dinner and pudding have been eaten, the silence of fullness usually descends around 3pm, just in time for The Queen's annual message to Britain and the Commonwealth. First delivered by King George V in 1932, each broadcast carefully reflects current issues and concerns, and shares The Queen's reflections on what Christmas means to her and to many of her listeners. At the start of this event my grandfather also likes to salute the TV, but I think that may be unique to my family.

 

Pantomime

Not to be confused with anything to do with mime, this is Christmas theatre ritual that children usually attend with schools or families. Shows are usually a mix of songs, comedy and cross-dressing actors, with a story very loosely based on a well-known fairy tale. Audience participation is actively welcomed usually comes in the form of yelling "He's behind you" at the stage. My favourite pantomimes are still the ones that the teachers in my High School put on for the older children; very funny, quite rude and lots of male teachers dressed as dames.

 

Mince Pies and Mulled Wine

A regular fixture at parties and events throughout the season, mulled wine first became popular in Victorian England at Christmas. Boiled with cloves and spices and served warm, it may be alcoholic or non-alcoholic and is the perfect accompaniment to a mince pie. Small and sweet, mince pies are seemingly served everywhere in the UK during the Christmas period. These shortcrust pies filled with raisins, sultanas and spices are said to bring good luck if eaten once a day in December, however I think lots of waistbands would disagree with that last part!   

 

Boxing Day

The day after Christmas, this is a national holiday in the UK. It was traditionally the day when servants and tradesmen would receive gifts from their employers, known as a "Christmas box", hence the name. These days however it is a day spent finishing off the Christmas leftovers, visiting friends and family, attending a sports event, or shopping on what has now become the first day of the end of year sales.

 

Brussel Sprouts

Every country has their own take on Christmas dinner and in the UK one of the key ingredients in this is Brussel sprouts. The UK produces hundreds of millions of this vegetable every year and in the run-up to Christmas, farmers run 10 times as many harvesters and work from dawn until dusk picking them. However there is one particular reason why lots of people don't like them; sprouts are hard to digest and full of sulphur-containing chemicals to deter ­animals from feeding on their leaves. It's this that can clear a room in seconds...

Hope you found this interesting. Have a lovely Christmas and New Year!

 

By Nebula Norman

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