A Very London Christmas

Much like all other things in life, the English are much better at Christmas than Americans. Probably due in large part to the fact that there is very little public religious association, and a significant emphasis on spirit and festivity. Never has it been so apparent which country the Pilgrims ran from, and which one they ran to.

There are certain areas in particular where this celebratory excellence really shines.

Christmas Jumpers: While Americans thought they were super cool for throwing Ugly Christmas Sweater parties and making fun of over decorated kindergarten teachers from coast to coast, the British have made festive jumpers clever and adorable and mandatory. They go along with the almost daily Christmas parties throughout the month of December (and sometimes November) and the only thing more embarrassing than a hideous one is not wearing one at all. Wooly jumpers are, and always have been a British wardrobe staple, but as soon as reindeer, penguins, and fair isle snowmen jump on you’ve got yourself a cultural must-have. And I must have one. Or two.

Greetings: There is absolutely zero sensitivity about how you choose to spread holiday cheer. Yes, England has its own brand of Protestantism, but London is a cosmopolitan city and honestly no  one cares what you do in your own time, so we all acknowledge that decorations and warm spiced wine and chocolate are wonderful. End of.

Advent Calendars: They do have their roots in very Christian tradition, but most people in England probably don’t know that. They’re simply  a reason to start opening tiny presents as soon as December begins. There are many chocolate ones, but these days you can get them with Legos, and candles, and makeup, and nuts. Really anything you want to wake up to. Why has America not been doing this?

My dream advent calendar.

Twinkle Lights: Fairy lights, Christmas lights, whatever you want to call them, they are flipping everywhere. Every major street in London has light up snowflakes and trees and baubles on the street lights. But the department stores completely take the cake. With the mutual goal of covering every square inch of their five-story city blocks in twinkles they all compete to do it the best (except for Peter Jones, which sticks with the classic stripes) to astonishing effect. And not one bulb is ever out.


No Pesky Thanksgiving: Forget hearing everyone complain about how early the holiday songs are on the radio and having to start shopping the Christmas sales when you’ve barely got the cobwebs down from Halloween. All of that is not only acceptable, but encouraged, in England because there is no silly day of eating (celebrating said Pilgrims’ inability to farm) to get in the way. Though I did have a silly day of eating with a large bunch of British people, who were confused but hungry, and it was fun trying to explain casseroles, sweet potatoes with marshmallow, and pumpkin pie (“Yes, I’m sure that the marshmallows are a side and the pie is the dessert; I mean the pudding”)

I suppose it’s just one more thing to add to the list of reasons why London is the best city in the world and I need to find a way to never leave. As if I needed more.

Happy Christmas xx

Holly Days

Happy Holidays, everyone! I know this time of year means something a little different for us all. Decorating, shopping, vacationing, lovingly gathering with/avoiding family. Mild to extreme observance of whatever spiritual credo you adhere to. But what I really think it’s important for us not to forget this time of year are the Pagan roots we all descend from and should respect. Granted you’re probably already doing a lot of things without even realizing it – decorating trees, lighting candles, cooking and eating feasts in a ceremonial fashion, dressing up, and dancing.

If you think about it, those are really all the fun parts of the winter festivities anyway. Especially that whole making out under bushes thing. Awesome.

Since the point of all the religious observances is just to further bind you to the global power play that is organized religion, and they are mostly not fun, I’m all for glazing over those in favor of the purity of Pagan celebration. And what better way to exorcise the stress caused by all of those aforementioned seasonal obligations. A little worship to the North Star, in sparkly earrings and a red scarf, sashaying near flames sounds way better than your average midnight mass. Who’s to say that is any less spiritual or connected to the world around you?

Although, if that’s the sort of emotional freedom and happiness, the kind of connection that you get out of mass, or Hanukkah prayers, or ritualistically howling at the moon then more power to you. Shun the tree, oust Santa, and get on your knees in front of a manger. Personally, I think gold and silver are a choking hazard for babies. A nice fleece blanket would have been a lot more welcome at the birth of a barn baby in the Israeli desert. In my opinion. Or, like, socks. Or a Bugaboo stroller. Maybe myrrh is really good for diaper rash? Anyway. My point is just to value the joy of Paganism, in all its forms, as being of equal value as any other holiday tradition. Presents make people happy (and that whole scenario is very symbiotic with capitalism, so there’s that) and you shouldn’t let anyone make you feel guilty for thinking about what would please the people you love and sacrificing part of your income to get it for them when they label it “materialism”. We exist as physical entities. Materials are nice. Embrace it.

While you’re at it embrace the people you choose to be with this holiday. Do whatever makes you happy with them. And definitely set something on fire at some point.

Jiminy Christmas

Wonder of wonders, I finished the much anticipated holiday letter before New Year’s. Considering I had the previous excuse of having to write it after flying home from school, right before Santa did, made this year all the more pathetic- because really, what else do I have to do? But when you’re celebrating more than your average number of holidays you suddenly have the ability to latch on to the traditions of any one of them as an excuse. Candle lighting is very time-consuming.

Then there are the distractions I create for myself. While having a very pleasant lunch with my sister, wherein we dissected the strange forces of the universe that cause her to have a harem of men that follow her, we started to wonder what it would be like if she married one of them. She having been the tomboy of our little duo, and me the ‘girly girl’, hypothetical wedding preparations were left up to me. Of course, being the very reasonable wedding planner that I am (or, at any rate, have the potential to be) I let her pick the colors. So the bridesmaids are in jewel tone purple and she is designing her dress on a napkin while I tell her about flower arrangements and try to define organza. Considering that the only thing my sister and I enjoyed doing within each others presence, from age 2 (when she was born) to last summer, was wrestling we had made leaps and bounds. Please spare me the jello references.

True, we have both grown up in a lot of ways- we could hardly help it. And there was some excellent grilled cheese at this lunch that could encourage love between a jewish momma and an anorexic. But happily discussing wedding plans for two hours was rather remarkable for us. As much as I hate to say it, my mother may have been right about the whole “not hating your sibling when you’re older” thing. But only after prolonged absences spanning months in which we are separated by 3000 miles or more. Whatever- her wedding is going to be gorgeous.

The rest of the family is not in quite such happy, grilled cheese graces. There was a Sherlock Holmes debacle and a whole lot of leftover brisket (which I have no problem with) and the realization that the new movie coincidentally has many things in common with the mysteries of Christmas- part of the holiday I am more than slightly less versed in than present and candy procedures. So when hearing the perfect man, living sacrifice, empty tomb, and virgin birth being discussed I, of course, was quick to mention that there probably weren’t any virgins in Sherlock Holmes, and I am sure I would have remembered a birth. Apparently this commentary was not quite Kosher. But very funny for all that.

Mom was so disappointed to have guessed wrong about the contents of a very large box she received, hoping that it was a new set of dishes, that she then proceeded to break the dishes we do have. Good thing there are sales in January.

With the knowledge that even with all of this it was rather a tame holiday I have a new drink to experiment with and a massive caramel apple to make a dent in. Happy Everything!!