All over the UK, in the small towns in London alike 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.
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.)
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.
Eat we now Mince Pies for breakfast fa lalalalalalalalala la la. Write up the Christmas cards before its too late fa lalalalalalalalala la la. Then we pinch a few decorations fa lalalalalalalalala la la. ‘Tis the season for festive flatlays fa lalalalalalalalala lala. #namethatsong . . . #Christmas #flatlay #delicious #foodgasm #onthetable #moodofmytable #bestfoodworld #eeeeeats #breakfast #brunch #breakfast #cupoftea #moodofmytable #coffeerem #flatwhite #naughty #travelblogger #toplondonphoto #londonforyou #aldesko #pretty #myunicornlife #festive #happy #mischief #christmascarols #deckthehalls #merrychristmas
A photo posted by Emma (@londonkiwiemma) on
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.
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…
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.
4 Christmas Jumper enthusiasts
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.
How do you score on the scavenger hunt so far this year? What are your favorite festive traditions?