The English enjoy Santa and his sleigh just as much as any American, but I have noticed a few subtle cultural differences here, as follows:
- People (and businesses) will wish you a Merry Christmas rather than Happy Holidays. They will also be more overtly religious in their Christmas symbology, something this Mormon very much appreciates. I am guessing this is due to the influence of an established, or state-funded church.
- Minced pies. They love them, although I have only ever tasted one which I enjoyed – at Harvey Nichols in Knightsbridge.
- Mulled wine, but no wassail (it's apparently of Germanic rather than British origin).
- Germanic-like little Christmas villages. One such village on a colossal scale is built every year in the park near Hyde Park corner close to where we live, complete with Ferris wheel, swings, a haunted house of terror (the grim reaper is in a Santa suit), and villagy-like shops and brauts for sale.
- Christmas Crackers (pictured above). These are not edible, but rather are cylinderic, and look like a very large, festively-wrapped candy. Pulling on the edges will make the thing “crack” open with a rather fun pop! and reveal a paper crown inside.
- Christmas Dinner. Companies, associations, and friends often will rent out a table or a restaurant for a “Christmas Dinner” sometime in December before the 25th. Christmas Crackers and traditional foods (usually associated with our Thanksgiving Dinner) feature. The crowns inside the crackers are worn on the heads (anyone know the significance of this?) while the guests eat. This meal and crackers are enjoyed on Christmas Day at a family Christmas Dinner, which seems to be more prevalent than in the states.
- Live BBC broadcast of "Nine Lessons and Carols" by the Cambridge King's College Singers Christmas Eve, begun in 1928 and now broadcasted to millions around the world.
- Live BBC broadcast of the Queen's Christmas address Christmas day. A preview of this year's message can be found here. I find it very interesting that she writes these herself without any government help.
- Boxing Day. The 26th of December is a national holiday, and everything is closed as on Christmas Day (it is not the second-largest shopping day). Traditionally, it is the day the "Christmas box" full of presents and monies donated during Christmas services was taken around and its contents distributed to the poor.
Wherever you are, and whatever traditions you enjoy, this blogger wishes you the very merriest of Christmases!