Life in London is different from what it had been pre-2020, but we have found little pleasures closer to home. A wreath at the door is inviting, along with our elf.
Christmas is a banking holiday in England, but shops are open, so Americans can find last-minute coffee and rolls or add to the meal if unexpected guests arrive. Boxing Day, which may be unfamiliar to Americans, is a more important holiday here. Larger family gatherings and Premier League football games take place all day. But instead of the National Football League in the U.S., these the leading European soccer teams.
What is Boxing Day?
Boxing Day has been a bank holiday in England since 1871. British tradition regarding the holiday on Deceemer 26: The servants of the wealthy were required to work on Christmas, so they were given the day off on the 26th and received food and a gift box. Post men and errand boys also received a “box” and leftovers from the Christmas meal. In keeping with the season of giving, churches opened their donation boxes on the 26th and distributed the money to the poor. Mainly families exchange gifts and had a meal.
We celebrated Christmas Day with a full-on American brunch with plate-sized pancakes, bacon and eggs, and sausage too thin to be British bangers. The kids squirted whipped cream faces on their pancakes. This after opening presents and the children clicked together their Lego sets.
Earlier in the week, I saw a spectacular outdoor lights and fountain display at the Kew Gardens in southwest London. Christmas music perfectly coordinated with digital lights moved with gigantic snowflakes up the sides of the greenhouse, which stood four stories tall. In the next blog I will feature the Kew presentation, which will lack the mulled wine, hot chocolate, and mince pies, or the opportunity to walk among the spacious grounds on a three-mile tour to see the lights dance through the Kew acreage.
While Kew outdid itself, London’s neighborhoods are generally subdued when it comes to Christmas. Green wreaths are common at the doors. Lights, when displayed, are usually white. Blue lighting occurs at a few houses.
At home some decorations represent British stereotypes, including the double-decker, which I rode the week I arrived before the Omicron warnings were out. Then there is Big Ben—the clock that keeps time for Parliament.
Enjoy your Christmas and 2022, wherever you may be!