Thursday, December 16, 2010

"Christmas In England": X-mas Guest Post and Giveaway with Miranda Neville

Christmas in England
Hi Rita. Thanks for inviting me to join your Christmas celebration. I live in the US, but I grew up in England. The typical British Christmas has much in common with the American one, but of course there are differences, and not every family celebrates the holiday in the same way.  

The first thing that always strikes me about the British Christmas is how long it lasts. There are always two full days off work, Christmas Day itself and December 26th, known as Boxing Day. Most people take extra time to link the two weekends and New Years (some businesses close altogether) and in a good year you can string together ten days. During that time everyone eats, drinks and watches a lot of telly.  
My siblings and I would wake up horribly early on the big day and open our stockings, filled with small items and a clementine orange in the toe. My mother was a lifelong believer in recycled wrapping paper. At a fairly young age I noticed Father Christmas seemed to get his paper from the Big Drawer in the drawing room. A couple of years later all our illusions were shattered and she had us all wrapping and stuffing each other’s stockings, never using tape because that damaged the paper and made it less re-usable. 
After breakfast we were each permitted to open one present. Little devils that we were, we’d usually poked and prodded each passage enough to make an educated guess about a good one. Then off to church. The big unwrapping session happened before lunch with the grown-ups having their first of many drinks for the day. 

Christmas Crackers

The big meal is usually Christmas lunch. Since the Brits have no Thanksgiving, this is the day for turkey, served with a couple of stuffings, gravy, roast potatoes, and Brussels sprouts. Poultry of any kind is often served with bread sauce (basically soft white bread crumbs cooked in milk, flavored with onion and cloves). For dessert we’d have the traditional Christmas pudding, a heavy plum pudding served in a blaze of burning brandy, mince pies, and brandy butter (Butter whipped with sugar and brandy; my arteries harden as I write this).  Then clementines, nuts, dried fruits and Christmas crackers.

Paper Christmas Hats!
Crackers contain prizes which range from pieces of plastic rubbish to fancy gadgets and jewelry, depending on the price. They all contain tissue paper hats, which everyone has to wear regardless of how stupid they look, and slips of paper imprinted with appallingly bad jokes and riddles. Since everyone is usually pissed by this time (or very merry if too young to drink) everyone laughs a lot. I include a random photo taken last time I spend Christmas in England, just to demonstrate how dumb people look in paper hats. 
At 3 pm we stagger from the table to watch the Queen’s Speech. If sensible one might take a walk. Or collapse and watch another movie before tea and Christmas Cake, a heavy fruit cake covered with marzipan and decorated with hard white icing. (Note to Brits: please discover American butter cream frosting). 
Thus ends the official portion of Christmas Day. Supper is generally light. Turkey soup and/or sandwiches may feature.  Turkey Curry, made famous by Bridget Jones, is very likely in your near future. 
One of my very favorite parts of Christmas is decorating the tree. My mother believed in delegating tasks so I’ve been doing it since early childhood. I collect new ornaments when I travel and I’m particularly fond of ones I find in museum shops.
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What are your favorite holiday decorations? Do you collect different ornaments for your tree, or do you prefer a color scheme or theme? And is your tree real or fake?
One commenter wins her choice of one of my books.

~*~Giveaway Details~*~
Miranda Neville has generously offered to giveaway a copy of any one of her books to one (1) lucky commenter (Winner's Choice). Follow the guidelines below and comment for your chance to win! The giveaway will end on Thursday, December 23rd, 2010 at 11:59:00 PM. The winner will be announced on Christmas Eve and contacted via email shortly after.

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