This is my first ever Christmas away from ‘home’. Except that’s not strictly true, because I am celebrating it in my home – it’s just a new home several thousands of miles away from our old one.
Less than 48 hours off of the big day and already I’ve run up a list as long as my arm of things that are very different – and maybe that’s a good thing. It makes an English Christmas extra special because these are things that I can only get back there. In the other ‘home’.
I’m not bashing an American Christmas – far from. The spirit that everyone gets into over here is amazing – the effort that people put into their house lights and decorations are straight out of National Lampoon. And everyone, everywhere, wishes you a happy holidays. But there is just something about a Brit Crimbo that you can’t get anywhere else.
So, in the age old style of end-of-yearness, I’m going to do my countdown of why an English Christmas truly is the best Christmas:
26. The Christmas number 1, who will it be? A school choir? A Craig David puppet with his own kestrel? The song about the futility of existence – thanks Mad World for that cheerful contribution? Who knows.
25. Proper stuffing – I have no words to explain what is considered stuffing out here. Thank goodness a friend sent a pack over in a care package. It might not be the posh stuff I normally treat myself to at Christmas, but Paxo, you have just saved Christmas dinner.
24. Harry Potter on Christmas day – I never watch the Christmas Day film. I’m usually cooking, eating, or drinking. But just knowing that it’s there is somewhat comforting.
23. The Queen’s speech – See Harry Potter on Christmas Day
22. Mince pies – there are none anywhere and you can’t even make your own. Mincemeat doesn’t exist out here. To be honest, trying to explain mincemeat to someone who has never heard of it is the most impossible thing in the world – no wonder they’re confused.
‘So what meat is in a mince pie? Beef?’
‘No, it’s not mince. It’s mincemeat‘
‘Mincemeat is fruit…..?’
21. Christmas cake and
20. Christmas pudding – both of these fall into the same category as above. Fruit soaked in booze and baked into a cake doesn’t seem to be a thing out here. And if I’m wrong, please, please someone let me know. And yes, I know I can bake one but I didn’t know three months ago that I would need to.
19. Boxing Day – doesn’t exist out here. So no Boxing Day means no…
18. Boxing Day leftovers, which you eat whilst watching…
17. Boxing Day films. I mean, there are leftovers. And films. But without a Boxing Day, they are just that – leftovers and films. Which is pretty much just a standard Sunday morning for me.
16. Trifle – I LOVE trifle. Refer back to the boozy fruits question.
15. Brandy cream – You can get brandy cream out here. Except it’s called Eggnog. And you drink it. I can see how this went down. Once upon a time, an American came to England one Christmas and was given a slice of Christmas pudding with brandy cream. The American was won over – this was the best thing he’d ever tasted. When he got back to America he realised that actually no one really likes boozy fruitcakes and also, they have to be made three months before and he is way too busy preparing for Halloween in September. So he thinks screw the pudding, I’ll just have the brandy cream. He ponders as to what he can pour his brandy cream over – he tries candied yams (see number 11) but it doesn’t really work. So in the end he thinks f*ck it, sticks it in a cup, adds some bourbon and lives happily ever after. And that’s how eggnog came to America*
14. Tesco finest gravy – at Christmas the granules are out and ‘proper’ gravy stock is in. And Tesco always seemed to be pretty good at it.
13. Saint Agur cheese – I’m being picky now. I’m not a cheese person. I couldn’t even tell you what type of cheese Saint Agur is. But all I know is that someone always whips it out at Christmas, and I always eat it.
12. Yorkshire puddings – I wouldn’t really expect them to be available out here, which is fine, the clue is in the name. Plus, Mr M is probably the best Yorkshire pudding maker I know, so we have that covered. However, trying to find a large enough muffin tray is proving problematic.
11. Sausage rolls – I always make these myself and until I moved out here I didn’t appreciate just how amazing British sausages are: pork and sundried tomato; pork, cheddar and onion chutney; Sicilian pork, chilli and fennel. I miss sausage rolls. A lot.
The top 10, starting with
10. Streaky bacon – I can’t find streaky bacon. I can find uncured honey-maple glazed, but I can’t find streaky. And everyone knows you need streaky bacon for…
9. Pigs in blankets – if these aren’t on my Christmas table then it is NOT Christmas.
8. Roast potatoes – our good friends in Washington illustrated America’s familiarity with roast potatoes better than I ever could. At Thanksgiving, we told them we were bringing roast potatoes, and when they relayed this back to a fellow Brit, they described it as ‘they’re bringing some sort of roasted potatoes? I’m not sure what they are’. To which his reply was standard Brit. ‘They’re potatoes. Roasted’. Nope, the equivalent of roast tatties over here are candied yams. Sweet potatoes. Sprinkled with sugar. I’m not even sure I have this right, but that’s all I’ve been able to find.
7. London Christmas lights – sorry New York but London wins the Christmas lights stakes hands down. New York has amazing individual displays (Saks 5th Ave love, love, love), but for an overall ‘Oh wow!’ moment, nothing can beat Oxford Street, Regent Street and Carnaby Street.
6. Harrods – Everything. About. This. Place. The light display, the singer that stands on the little balcony overlooking the escalators, the Christmas tree decoration I buy every year… Harrods = Christmas.
5. Christmas versions of everything – every single supermarket wheels out their Christmas editions. Christmas orange juice, Festive Percy Pig (and friends), Yuletide tiger bread, Mistletoe Marmite. You name it, we festive-ise it in the UK. We kind of do the same thing out here in the states – except everything is candy cane flavour. Or eggnog flavour. Or candy cane spiced eggnog flavour.
4. Roses chocolates – Oh how I miss my tin of Roses. Someone, please send me one. I’ll even settle for Quality Street.
In at number three…. Pubs. Dear god I miss pubs. It is the strangest thing to have a beautiful winters day and not have somewhere to walk to just to have a glass of wine. With a fire. I miss pubs!!!!!!!!!! *waaaaa emoji face*
And then, of course, numbers 1 and 2; our family and friends. Skype, Facetime, WhatsApp – however you stay in touch – never can or will beat a good old face-to-face and hug with the people you love most. But it does help, and I’ll take seeing someone through a screen over not seeing them at all any day.
So, that’s a ‘wrap’ (sorry – Christmas cracker joke… come to think of it, I haven’t seen any Christmas crackers out here either). Wish us luck at getting through our first foreign Christmas. There is one thing that we are knocking out the ballpark over here – we are having Turducken. Turkey, duck, and chicken. All rolled together. I don’t know how, but this will be epic, I’m sure.
All that remains is to wish you all a healthy, happy Christmas. I hope you get to spend it with your favourite people and have lots of love and laughter – because that really is the best thing about Christmas.
And, thankfully, that’s not just a Brit thing.
*This story has no factual evidence whatsoever.