Every single year there are 11 of my favourite Christmas traditions that I insist we fulfil without fail. And if we can’t, I’ll find a workaround that somehow leverages them in, anyway – here’s looking at you 3-foot high neon green Christmas tree of ’15.
London is one of my favourite cities to spend Christmas in. Whether it snows or dawns a clear blue sky there is something magical in cool December days spent under strings of fairy lights.
In December everyone is in good spirits, and often full of *hic* spirits…
Have a least 3 wrapping paper roll sword fights.
…shouting pirate quotes at your opponent are essential.
The first weekend of December, the Christmas decorations come out of storage. (If I’m being truly honest here, I’ve been through some of the boxes a couple of times a year already, caught in the wisps of nostalgia as I pour over decorations collected over the previous months and years of travel.) NZ Santa in his shorts and flip flips is hung in lieu of festive sunshine, Mr Kiwi’s Football baubles have pride of place, and I drape EVERYTHING in fairy lights. We eat mince pies, sip something special (mull all the things is my battle cry) and we play our favourite Christmas songs from the dedicated playlist that we add to every year. If Biscuit is lucky, she doesn’t get covered in tinsel – but she does have a fetching Santa hat.
This year, I have to admit that I’m struggling with my conscience over getting a Christmas Tree. We try to be ecologically conscious where we can – hopefully offsetting some of our travels alongside the thought that the plane is going there any way (let’s not go down that rabbit hole of recriminations) and we don’t own a car, catching public transport everywhere that we can. Watch this space.
Listen to our favourite Christmas songs.
Unfortunately, on the 1st of December – it doesn’t matter whether it’s a Monday or Saturday – I am woken without fail by Mr Kiwi gleefully playing Mud’s ‘Lonely This Christmas’ at full volume. This year, he was disappointed that I didn’t wake until the 3rd play in a row, but what can you do when you’ve been out at pre-Christmas festivities? If you want to terrorise, sorry, serenade your loved one with it at an ungodly hour (ie. before 9am), here it is in all its 70s glory;
Explore the London Christmas Lights – over and over.
I hate crowds. Hate them. Except at Christmas. More often than not in December, I’ll be found staring heavenwards because nearly 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 – the exquisite Fortnum & Mason windows, 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.
Sing Christmas Carols in an achingly beautiful setting.
Every year we like to catch a carol performance, but two of the most memorable were the angelic carols in St Pauls Cathedral and more recently, in the Royal Albert Hall with a philharmonic orchestra. Listening to the complex harmonies echo throughout the incredible buildings, it’s an experience that I can’t quite express in words – though the tears slipping down my cheeks and the grin on my face might go some way to explaining it.
Enjoy a festive Afternoon Tea with loved ones.
Every year for a good 10 years, I’ve always made sure to sneak in at least one Christmas afternoon tea in December. (They seem to be increasing in number over the years, and I’m totally ok with that.) I’ve thrown my own, loved 5 star hotel ones where a harpist plays carols and enjoyed local cafe ones. My first one this year was at the delectable Connaught Hotel.
Celebrate my friends holidays.
What can I say, I’m an equal opportunity kinda gal when it comes to festively celebrating. Diwali, Thanksgiving, SinterKlaus, Hannakah – you name it, I’m up for enjoying it (as appropriate). I feel like it’s also even more important as an expat to learn about and appreciate other people’s cultures – especially when they come complete with giant chocolate letters and heavenly pumpkin cheesecake.
Make Jaffa Slice.
For me, Christmas is epitomised by smell (apart from the tearing apart of crackling wrapping paper of course!). The soft scent of a pine Christmas tree wafts of mulling spices containing cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, the smell of freshly baking gingerbread, oh, I could go on. The clearest Christmas childhood memory (bar the pillow-case sized Santa sacks we used to have) is one summer in the North Island, racing my cousins to my Aunties fridge to battle for her freshly set Jaffa Slice. My personal idea of hell is making Jaffa Slice and trying in vain to resist the siren call whilst it sits in the fridge.
Mulling all of the things.
‘Tis the season to get spicy, fa lalalalala la la la la. I’m not a fan of red wine, so mulled wine isn’t my thing, but mull a cider or hot apple juice, and I am there. Even the smell of mulling drinks makes me smile as I walk past a drinking establishment.
Video call my family on Christmas Day.
We like to schedule in a call on Christmas day morning UK time/ Christmas day evening NZ time, and often open Christmas presents that we’ve sent each other on camera. NB: Top tip for expats – order presents from companies in the giftee’s country – it’ll save you on postage costs and hassle – and they’ll often wrap the gift for you before putting it into the box for a small fee.
Count my blessings + give back to the community.
I’ve always been a proponent of year-round appreciation and community spirit, but I like to sit back around Christmas and really take a look over the past year.
What is your favourite Christmas tradition?
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