A Sneak Peek into a British Christmas

Since I’m traveling back to Guatemala for the holidays and this past weekend was the last weekend of the year I get to spend in Britain my best friend and her mother decided to have an early Christmas day with me on Sunday. While Christmas traditions vary widely from family to family within the same country, there were a few things from my experience celebrating Christmas with them that I’d never seen before. I’ll include a few pictures at the end.

When I spend Christmas in Guatemala the majority of the celebration happens on Christmas Eve. We usually go to church around 5 or 6pm and then head to my grandmother’s house to have dinner. Dinner generally starts around 8pm and we always eat turkey, mashed potatoes, bread and canned cranberry sauce as well as home-baked chocolate chip, almond and cheese cookies. At midnight we pray by the nativity scene and then place baby Jesus on it. Finally, we burn some fireworks, drive home and open gifts by the tree the morning after.

Yesterday our Christmas celebrations started around 10am. We took turns to open gifts, then spent some time playing a Firefly board game. After finishing the game we had dinner, at 1pm. I was surprised to see that dinner happened at what I considered to be lunch time rather than late afternoon or night. Before actually starting to eat dinner we crossed our arms while holding Christmas crackers. They looked like cardboard tubes covered in colored paper and upon pulling them they made a loud noise and little toys and jokes flew around the room. I did some googling to try to find out why they are a Christmas tradition but the only thing I was able to find out was that they have been a British Christmas tradition since the late 1840s. Dinner consisted of mushrooms stuffed with herbs, bacon and cheese as the starter followed by a lamb roast accompanied by potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes, baby corn, carrots, broccoli, Yorkshire puddings and gravy. We then played another round of the Firefly board game and had dessert once that one was over. Dessert consisted of a chocolate orange sponge pudding and double cream.

Based on both my early Christmas celebration experience and talking to other British students at the university it seems like the main things that are commonly part of Christmas celebrations in England are Christmas crackers, a roast dinner (while most of them said the roast dinner included Yorkshire puddings, the meat used in the roast and the vegetables seemed to vary). It also seems like mince pies, which contain several different kinds of dried fruits (and no mince, which makes it sound more appealing than I initially thought) are a more common kind of dessert during Christmas celebrations. It also seems like unlike most Latino countries I’m aware of, Christmas celebrations take place primarily on Christmas day as opposed to Christmas Eve. But overall, unusual traditions aside, our Christmas celebration here still had a very similar feel to Christmas back at home and it was a nice change of pace from worrying about in semester tests and coursework.

See you next week!



You can see the Christmas cracker in front of the plate on this picture