16 December 2013

London, a Christmas Wonderland (+ Expat to Expat)

London celebrates Christmas and the festive season wonderfully. December, in England's capital, is encrusted with beautiful street light displays, pine bough covered store fronts, carollers echoing on train station platforms and the smell of mulled wine seductively wafting from open pub doors full of chatter.   
 


Every street has an individual character of twinkling decorations and many have over the top window displays, perfect for the season of excessive enjoyment. Some even have pedalo operators dressed as Santa, playing 40s Christmas carols to grannies, who sing their hearts out through the busy roads.
 

My favourites include many of the classics - Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges, Regent Street, Trafalgar Square and Oxford Street; but also many of the lesser known - Hatchards, St Christophers Place, Canary Wharf and Old Spitalfields Market.

Hatchards

It's a cornucopia of tinsel, baubles, festive characters, fake snow and sheer unadulterated joy. Oh, and commercial luring of frazzled shoppers.

Fortnum and Masons central staircase

Thought up and hosted by the lovely ladies at Found Love, Now What and The Hemborg Wife in this months Expat to Expat linkup, thoughts are turning to holidays.

Has your idea of the holiday season changed since becoming an expat?
 
Yes and no. It's always going to be totally family orientated no matter where we live. Whilst the trappings are fun and frivolous, and the fripperies and decorations are lovely , for us it's just an excuse to spend quality time with family. The nature of that time has changed since becoming an expat - time with my family is largely Skype oriented, but we still make a point of catching up over a cuppa and a mince pie - which we also do with Mr Kiwi's family, but in person.
 
The holiday itself has changed hugely. In New Zealand we have an unusual combination of the height summer and a British winter holiday. This year celebrating in London, instead of eating under an tented awning in the backyard, dressed in shorts and T-Shirts, we are awaiting the snow, rugged up in thick woollen jumpers (crazy Christmas theme sadly optional), snuggled around a roaring fireplace getting excited over the TV schedule and the gloriously golden Turkey coming out of the oven.
 
The cold makes you feel infinitely more festive. Weird, no?

Fortnum & Mason's 2013 windows (please excuse the terrible, terrible photos)

 
How do you build new holiday traditions, while keeping ones that remind you of “home”?
 
We've made many traditions ourselves - every year we buy a new, usually relevant Christmas decoration, put up the tree as soon as I can convince hubby to get one, make Jaffa Slice, hang my Kiwi Christmas decorations, send hilarious New Zealand Christmas cards and watch the Covent Garden Christmas Pudding Race. Every year we make new traditions without realising it - last year I threw a Christmas afternoon tea for my nearest and dearest, and due to much demand it will be happening again very soon.
 
 Selfridges, dressed in festive glamour.
 
Lost London, buildings that could have been but weren't - all modelled in gingerbread.

Oh, did I mention Eros, the worlds reputedly biggest Snow Globe? It's a method to protect the statue from drunk hooligan damage, but equally an enormous example of English humour.

 
 
Ps. Santa, if you're beginning to pack your sleigh, Momma needs a new camera - just putting it out there... I promise I won't lose this one!
Expat Q&A
 No Croutons Required
 
What is your favourite holiday tradition that you keep up no matter where you live?

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20 comments :

  1. As our Christmases in California were very warm as well I agree that the cold weather is much more merry making!

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    1. Did you sing the traditional Christmas Carols (about snow, winter wonderlands and partirdges) like we crazily did in New Zealand too?

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  2. I think we keep creating traditions without realising it as well. I just realised we are slowly collecting ornaments each year, it's our second year of going to a friends christmas dinner, and of course going to York for some festive cheer. Not a whole lot different than home, if anything, I think I do more festive things in England!

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    1. You've been up to some awesome Christmassy things. It's funny how traditions can creep up on you isn't it!

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  3. This is the first time I've lived somewhere that actually felt like a "Christmas town". In Florida and Singapore it was too warm to feel like Christmas, and neither town in Tennessee ever decorated like London does. I'm definitely in the spirit this year! :o)

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    1. It's weird, isn't it! Maybe it was the Pantomime that did it!

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  4. Wow, this looks amazing. And I know exactly what you mean about the cold making you feel more festive. Some years for Christmas we have weather so warm we can be out in shorts and sandals. Not a single flake of snow on the ground. It's just not the same.

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    1. I never realised how much difference it made until I moved to the UK! There is something in me pining for a summery Kiwi Christmas though!

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  5. I agree that it feels more Christmassy in the cold weather. My Christmas tradition with my fam is making a giant whirl pool - a bit random! Kinda hard for me to do this year, but they will carry it on I'm sure!

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    1. Oh, that's so much fun though! Will you Skype them whilst they do it? ;D

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  6. every year we are starting new traditions as well. I think the longer you live in country the more you learn about it and start adopting their traditions!

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    1. I agree - and blogging about them pushes you to really explore as well!

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  7. I was once a caroler at a station! (My choir was at King's Cross for a few hours one December eve a few years ago.) it was so magical!

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    1. Awwww!!! That's one I haven't done yet - it's going on the list next year along with the Nutcracker ballet methinks!

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  8. I totally agree the cold definitely makes things feel more festive. I love your London pics even though they have given me a little pang of homesickness. The Selfridges pic is stunning! Hope Santa is listening to your request ;-)

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    1. Oh, I'm sorry Lou - don't worry though, it's still as noisy and crazy as ever ;D

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  9. Oh no! Did you lose your camera?? I'm not sure that would please me at all! I'm not sure I have kept any of my South Africa Christmas traditions except for the all-important afternoon nap!

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    1. Yeah, at the end of our American holiday earlier in the year - I've been blogging with only my phone ever since :(
      Ahhh, the afternoon nap is essential!

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  10. I live in Australia at the moment and, while I enjoy the warmer Christmases, a lot of the magic of Christmas is missing. The decorations here are nothing compared to those in London and of course my family is in the UK. I love seeing photos of the decorations back home though and enjoy the British decorations vicariously through other peoples' photos!

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    1. Have you brought many of your British traditions with you?
      They are totally different aren't they!

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So, what do you think? Comments are blogging mana; short, sweet, long, loquacious, deep and meaningful...