I may not be the best placed to describe the traditional British Christmas Day with my mini-melting pot family, but it does give me the advantage of looking at my relatives with anthropological interest. So here’s what I’ve observed so far.
I can’t find any comparisons with an Australian Christmas Day spent near the beach, or on the beach. Let’s not go there – I don’t want to make every Australian Times reader weep. So guys and girls, just embrace the cold, the mince pies and yes – you do have to wear the Christmas cracker hat over lunch, it’s the law.
Also see: how to celebrate Christmas Day the expat way.
6 am: Chief Cook gets up with a hangover and starts on the turkey. At 39, I’ve still managed to avoid this task but I can tell you, it looks like serious yakka. By the time everyone else wakes up, Chief Cook is angry that he’s forgotten an ingredient and wife of Chief Cook is sent out to find an open shop. The rest of the adults are trying to keep the peace between sweating Chief Cook and hypo kids.
The children are just a tiny bit excited because it’s finally actually Christmas Day. They’ve spent half the night trying to catch Santa and the early hours stuffing their faces on sweets from their stockings. All British stockings must include at least one Chocolate Orange, one Clementine and a bag of chocolate gold coins.
8am: Fourth coffee. “Let’s just have cereal”, suggests a Sensible Sister who is usually over-ruled by a Festive Aunt: “If you can’t have it on Christmas day, when can you have it?”
Over an early morning feast, which must include smoked salmon, the family debates when to open the Christmas presents (amnesia from last year?) “Befoooooooooore lunch!” scream the children. “Oh shouldn’t we save them for after?” suggests the Sensible Sister.
10am: What better way to wash down eggs and salmon than Bucks Fizz! Someone discovers an already-open box of chocolates.
11am to 1pm: The Black hole: Time has vanished and so have most of the men, to the local for a pint. Chief Cook is about to resign. Grandad, on kids watch, is asleep on the sofa.
1:30pm: Chief Cook’s wife conveniently just returns back from the shops and asks reluctantly: “Darling, when do you think we might sit down for-”. But Chief Cook is outside chain smoking and drinking the cooking wine. Things are not looking too promising but the good news is that the Brussels sprouts are definitely ready.
The pub crowd gets back, sees the kitchen and takes some mince pies to the living room. Everyone agrees to open the Christmas presents before lunch, just this year – again. Chief Cooks sits down and forgets about the turkey. Drama breaks out over who should distribute the presies but as usual the youngest wins.
3:00pm: Everyone somehow finds themselves sitting down at their allocated seat, Christmas Crackers laid out, candles lit. The first course is served; the turkey is eaten; the cranberry sauce is ‘better than ever’. Groans are heard over Christmas Cracker jokes and children understand that this is their one opportunity to leave their vegetables uneaten, and so do the grown-ups. Attempts are made to eat the Christmas Cake. And the Christmas Pudding. And the Brandy Butter.
Grandad cries that the Queen’s Speech was missed at 3pm. The oldies remind their offspring that this is a tradition; that they used to stand up listening to her on the wireless; that it’s been going since 1932 with George V. Someone states that she has done it every year except 1969 but nobody remembers why she missed it.
5pm: People start trickling away to hidden corners around the house for online sale shopping and snoozing whilst the clever pub crowd tidies up. Chief Cook is nowhere to be seen.
That’s the traditional Christmas Day in the UK. Or a dysfunctional family’s Christmas Day in the UK. Or is that the same thing?
Postscript: Chief Cook re-appears on Boxing Day and states adamantly that next year he is buying it all from M&S. Until November comes when …