Saturday, December 19, 2009

A Christmas in the UK

As a second installment in my quest for knowledge about other worldwide Christmas customs, I introduce to you Jo from Ink and Paper. Jo writes the most amazing fantasy reviews, and I hope you'll visit her to get recommendations for your fantasy lover as I do for Monster! She has written a very informative post for us about Christmas in her country, so I do hope that you enjoy!

When Shesten asked me to write a guest post about my Christmas family traditions and how we celebrate Christmas in the UK, I jumped at the chance! Who doesn’t like talking about Christmas? But then I realised, I only know about how my family celebrates Christmas, I don’t know about what anyone else does in their own homes, and it’s going to be a little hard to find out. But then I remembered that celebrating Christmas doesn’t just happen indoors, and there are a few things that go on around the country to get us all in the mood!

One of the big things that happens this time of year, all over the country, are the pantomimes. For those who don’t know what a pantomime is, it’s basically a play or a musical with kids as the target audience, which can be enjoyed by the whole family. Normally some kind of fairy story, pantomimes are known for the pantomime dames, men who play exaggerated versions of female characters, such as the mother, the step-mother, and the ugly sisters from well known stories, as well as audience participation with phrases such as “It’s behind you!” and “Oh, no it isn’t!/Oh, yes it is!”. Well known celebrities – TV actors, presenters, etc – take part in these fantastic pantomimes. This year, one of the pantomimes being performed is Aladdin, where your very own Pamela Anderson is playing the Genie of the Lamp!

Each year in December, a London building famous for holding arty events, Somerset House, has its courtyard made into an ice-rink. This year the Somerset House ice rink celebrates it’s tenth birthday. As its website says, “Skate beneath the stars in the heart of London this winter, as Somerset House ice rink celebrates its 10th birthday. A calendar of special events includes Breakfast with Tiffany, DJ nights and Penguin Club. Meet in the Skate CafĂ© & Bar to enjoy a celebratory drink or visit the Tiffany Tuck shop where jewellery, cupcakes and other treats are on offer. Open all day and into the night, Somerset House ice rink is London's favourite winter tradition.” (

We also have a Christmas tradition with Norway. Each year, Norway gifts us with a huge Christmas tree, which we decorate and have on show in Trafalgar Square in London. The following is taken from the website Norway - the official site in the UK:

The Christmas tree is perhaps the most important symbol of Britain and Norway's warm relationship. The first tree was brought over in 1947 as a token of Norwegian appreciation of British friendship during the Second World War. When Norway was invaded by German forces in 1940, King Haakon VII escaped to Britain and a Norwegian exile government was set up in London. To most Norwegians, London came to represent the spirit of freedom during those difficult years. From London, the latest war news was broadcast in Norwegian, along with a message and information network which became vital to the resistance movement and which gave the people in Norway inspiration and hope of liberation.

The tree has become a symbol of the close and warm relationship between the people of Britain and Norway. Norwegians are happy and proud that this token of their friendship - probably the most famous Christmas tree in the world - seems to have become so much a part of Christmas for Londoners.

To read more about the trees, and the lighting of this year’s Christmas tree, click here.

How about a little more British Christmas history? The Christmas we all have come to know so well, the way we celebrate, is mainly down to the British author, Charles Dickens. The following is taken from the website David Perdue’s Charles Dickens’ Page:

Charles Dickens has probably had more influence on the way that we celebrate Christmas today than any single individual in human history except one.

At the beginning of the Victorian period the celebration of Christmas was in decline. The medieval Christmas traditions, which combined the celebration of the birth of Christ with the ancient Roman festival of Saturnalia (a pagan celebration for the Roman god of agriculture), and the Germanic winter festival of Yule, had come under intense scrutiny by the Puritans under Oliver Cromwell. The Industrial Revolution, in full swing in Dickens' time, allowed workers little time for the celebration of Christmas.

The romantic revival of Christmas traditions that occurred in Victorian times had other contributors: Prince Albert brought the German custom of decorating the Christmas tree to England, the singing of Christmas carols (which had all but disappeared at the turn of the century) began to thrive again, and the first Christmas card appeared in the 1840s. But it was the Christmas stories of Dickens, particularly his 1843 masterpiece A Christmas Carol, that rekindled the joy of Christmas in Britain and America. Today, after more than 160 years, A Christmas Carol continues to be relevant, sending a message that cuts through the materialistic trappings of the season and gets to the heart and soul of the holidays.

To read more about Dickens and Christmas click here.

As for my own Christmas traditions, I’ll keep it short. We see a movie on Christmas Eve, we don’t open our pressies until after our big Christmas dinner, and, when at home, TV, computers, and games consoles are banned; instead we spend the time together as a family playing games, and it’s awesome! I wrote a post this year as part of the Virtual Advent Tour 2009, so if you would like to read more about my own family traditions, you can read my post on my blog.

And one final thing to look at, the Imagine Building in London is decorated each year with Christmas lights with a new design. Check out this year’s design!

I hope you’ve enjoyed my guest post about Christmas in the UK, and I hope you all have a very Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year! :)

Thank you, Jo! That was absolutely wonderful! Read more about the UK at Wikipedia or its CIA Factfile.


Jo said...

No, thank you! It was so cool to write this post, I Really enjoyed looking it all up, and finding out things I didn't know myself! Thank you for inviting me to do so! :D

Cleverly Inked said...

I love Jo's blog. I found your very cool blog through her :)

Juju at Tales of said...

Oh Jo! What fun. Thank you for sharing.

I Heart Monster said...

@Jo - you really did do an amazing job!!

@Cleverly Inked - Thanks for stopping by! I hope to see you around!

@Juju - I think what Jo said was really fun too :o)

Chicklish said...

Great post, Jo! Aw, gotta love panto! :)

Jo said...

I'm glad you all enjoyed my post! :) And yes, Luisa, panto is awesome! :D