Have you ever done a Christmas scavenger hunt? It’s a great festive activity. All over the England and the UK, festive lovers celebrate Christmas and the winter festive season wonderfully. December, whilst London doesn’t have snow very often, 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.
But, much of the best fun can be found in the details of the London festive season. In a month rife with parties, shenanigans and secret santa re-gifting that can leave you feeling a little hollow inside, there are little details that can be spotted in the capital that always make me smile. Even through the pain of shopping on Oxford Street. To make things more interesting, each year we turn it into a Christmas scavenger hunt. Read on for the rules…
12 Chestnuts roasting
Chestnuts really are roasted on open fires and taste delicious when your cheeks are rosy with frost. We always try to find a pub or two with roaring fires, pull on our cozy scarves and order hot drinks spiced with cinnamon, clove and ginger to while away the chilly evenings. Christmas carols will be playing in the background and the excited hum of friends chatting only adds to the tidings of comfort and joy.
Bonus point: Hangover breakfasters
11 Mince Pies down the hatch
There has to be at least one weekend day every week in the lead up to Christmas where you come up with an excuse to hang out with your loved ones and eat mince pies or sip mulled wine. (For confused non-Commonwealth residents, the pies are a sweet, rich shortcrust pastry stuffed with mincemeat – a mixture of dried fruit usually soaked in brandy – and are delicious enough IMHO to hang out with people you don’t even like occasionally.) They’re potentially the tastiest entry in the Christmas scavenger hunt.
Bonus point: Breakfast Mince Pies
10 Sprigs of Mistletoe
Hanging in the doorways of many fine establishments are bunches of ancient Druidic aphrodisiac. Whether you take a side entrance or risk being pounced upon by an amorous office colleague who has laid in wait all year depends on your level of tactical strategy (and how many months of embarrassment you’ll serve at the water cooler.)
Bonus points: Snatching a kiss under a bare lightbulb, aka hipster mistletoe
9 Tourists Photographing
When they turned the lights on the Norwegian Christmas Tree that crowns Trafalgar Square every year,
there are brass band Christmas carols, Norwegian sopranos and a few fairly short addresses by Norwegian notables, reminding us of the reason for the Tree. Essentially, it is a thank you gift from Norway to Britain for helping their country out in World War Two and a specially selected tree has been floated from Oslo to London annually ever since.
8 Family Members Arguing
It’s the most wonderful time of the year, but sometimes the warbling refrain of Mariah Carey pouring from tinny shop speakers for the 178th time can cause families to short circuit fuses and start World War Tree over the smallest of strange problems. This is probably the most likely item in the Christmas scavenger hunt to turn up.
7 Untraditional Christmas Food Bites
Pizzas, randomly flavoured mince pies, burgers, bucks fizz potato chips, puntastic beer names, Pannettone “muffins”, melting snowmen biscuits, festively messed with biscuits, hot dogs, everything gingerbread, winter cocktails.
Bonus point: Something without Cranberry
6 Dreams of a White Christmas
Living here for nearly a decade, I’ve only been lucky enough to experience two White Christmasses, and the softly falling snow really adds an extra degree of festivity. All the carols we sing have an extra magic, church rafters resound with choir-sung chords and shoppers hum familiar refrains under their breath. However, to achieve this snow is required, which unfortunately isn’t so common in December. But, if you happen to be in the right place at the right time you might discover a little fake snow
filling the air…
Until you’ve spread a little Christmas cheer and really been able to inhale the sweet, heady scent of a real Pine Christmas up close and personal, it isn’t Christmas. What’s more, generally being a city of non-car owners, social media alights with families around the city hauling their festive firs in a more unconventional manner. In our household this is a task generally carried out by my lovely husband as we don’t have a car, but is always rewarded with warm Christmas Mince Pies and the look of delight on my face.
Bonus Points: Someone wearing reindeer antlers on the train or in a fabulous restaurant
4 Christmas Jumper enthusiasts
Not just content with convincing their fellow office workers to don silly woollen jumpers – generally with flashing LED lights and glitter galore – the organisers of such events will usually enjoy every excuse it gives them to wear novelty knitwear to every occasion they think they can get away with. Even until the New Year walk of shame.
Bonus point: Drunken Santas If you’re lucky you’ll even encounter SantaCon early in the day – an annual pub crawl where literally thousands of people dress like Santa Claus and run around London – culminating around the Christmas Tree in Trafalgar Square. If you’re unlucky? Well, you’ll know.
3 Strangers talking (to each other)
In London strangers don’t generally speak with one another (except to apologise when someone else bumps into them) but over the festive season everyone seems to mellow a little more, and problems seem to matter a touch less. Cheerful conversations erupt when you wait for the bus, the train drivers sing carols over the announcement system and everyone giggles that little bit louder.
Two For Me
One For You Shopping
Underneath the Christmas lights strung across each main London shopping street (we usually apply a rating system of between 1 and 5 fairy-light stars) shoppers dash from beautifully ornate department store windows – Fortnum & Mason, Selfridges, many along Regent Street, Trafalgar Square and Oxford Street and to many of the lesser known European style Christmas markets also springing up in parks, gardens and fields full of Gluehwein and gingerbread. The trick here is to spot the shoppers treating themselves as well as buying for their loved ones during their own Christmas scavenger hunt.
How do you score on the scavenger hunt so far this year? What are your favorite festive traditions?