Christmas is coming. There is no doubt about it. Snippets of tinsel and 20 pack greeting cards are all over the shelves from Poundland to Marks & Sparks. The last (fake) cobweb of Halloween has been swept away from the shelves reserved for ‘seasonal’ stock, and Christmas has been unleashed in all its jingle-belling, mince-pie eating, sticky-taped, wrapping-papered glory.
I think most of us approach Christmas in the same sort of way. Outwardly, we groan how the decorations appear earlier every year and lament on how it’s becoming just a commercially driven celebration without any meaning, and how it will inevitably leave us in debt for the next 12 months until we do it all again, etc etc.
But secretly our inner child is cheering, relishing the unadulterated eating and drinking to come, and harbouring a secret hope that perhaps this year will deliver on the perfect Christmas promise so beautifully portrayed in the latest John Lewis TV commercial.
Christmas overseas: leave it or take it head on!
But Christmas is all about family. So what do you do if you’re an expat, possibly on your own, on the other side of the world?
Well, you have two options. Either you pull your duvet (doona) over your head, sever all communication with the outside world until New Years at least, watching a box set of for favourite 20th century American sitcom while eating pot noodles and denying all knowledge of the season to be jolly. Or you make the most of being in one of the most amazing cities of the world, and just go for it, Christmas on steroids.!I suggest the latter.
A Real Wintery Christmas
The one thing I really love about the UK is that Christmas is celebrated in WINTER. Finally the dreams of chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose can finally be realized. Fellow Aussies could wax lyrical to me all day about the brilliant beach BBQ they have on Christmas day followed by Boxing Day with beers in the pool, but frankly it falls on deaf ears. To me, nothing beats a cold Christmas, so while you’re in London, make the most of it!
My suggested itinerary is outdoor ice-skating somewhere iconic like Hampton Court Palace, followed by warming egg nog (or cold Bavarian beer if you fancy) with bratwurst and sauerkraut at the German Markets in Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland.
Witness the carnage unfolding in Hamley’s toy store and admire the painstakingly put-together shop window fronts of Oxford Street. Carols by Candlelight at the Royal Albert Hall is a magical experience – though don’t be put off by your neighbours tone deaf singing, instead, join in, the flatter the better. And ballet fan or not, the Nutcracker is a must to inspire even the most determined Grinch to join in with the spirit of the season.
My final tip is to revel in tipples usually reserved for pensioners — sherry, brandy and port; for some reason it is perfectly acceptable for anyone of any age to indulge in these during the weeks surrounding Christmas. With the added excuse that one needs them to keep the frosty weather at bay.
Dreaming of a White Christmas
And there is one final bonus to spending Christmas in the northern hemisphere — the possibility of experiencing the most magical Yuletide of all: the White Christmas Bing Crosby croons of so silkily, year on year. Though the odds of it happening in London are slim, at least there is hope, and to me that sure beats the alternative back home in Perth, Melbourne, Brissy, Sydney or wherever Down Under and the possibility of a 40 degree stinker on Christmas Day.
Memories for a lifetime
So hopefully this has inspired you to rope in all your unsuspecting mates and to go Christmas-crazy in the Big Smoke this year. I for one know that when the memory of Christmases spent in the UK become more and more distant, I will still be trying to recreate the magic in my pool room back in Oz, with air conditioning cranked to the max, trying to convince anyone that will listen that sherry isn’t just for old ladies who play bridge.
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