Monday, October 26, 2009

Christmas In A Foreign Land

Apart from Christmas 2003, I've spent every festive season this century in the good old US of A. In fact since I started going to the US in 1989, I've spent 12 out of the 20 over there and this year will make it 13 out of 21.

That's the math out of the way !

So I'm well used to the cultural differences by now and although I've never been much of a Christmas person, I've tried to incorporate a few Brit traditions into my US festivities.

Growing up, we were too poor to afford Christmas and my parents would rewrap the same presents every year and tell us to hand them back on Boxing day in the hopes we'd forget what we got. I did have my doubts every year even though they convinced me that the comic annual was really called "Beano 1954" and the familiar stories were only familiar as they were true to life. I finally sussed it all out in 1969 when I unwrapped the "Big Ben Jigsaw Puzzle...Ages 5-8"

I was 17.

But I digress.

Several years ago I took to the US a box of Christmas Crackers, a very British, if mildly explosive product that made me somewhat nervous going through US customs.

"So what are these then ?"

"Well two people grab an end each and pull hard and....umm......the cracker explodes and things fall out of it....things that were in a tube."

"So it's a pipe bomb ?"

"Nooooooooo it's only a cardboard tube and the explosion is really only a little bang."

"There's no such thing as a little bang. And take that stupid hat off."

"Don't tell me you've never pulled a cracker at Christmas ?"

"Right buddy; you're pushing your luck now."

"Bah humbug."

"What ?"

Anyway I discovered that you really need to experience Christmas Crackers from a very early age as to be introduced to them in middle age just isn't the same. Oh everyone enjoyed the pulling bit and the groaning at the jokes bit and even the silly paper hats bit - but the joy of the little gifts was short lived and most were left on the dining table when everyone retired to the living room to fall asleep. Well what did they expect from Poundstretchers ??!!

I had much more success with my one contribution to the Christmas meal - a trifle ! Man did that go down well and has continued to be a very popular addition to the groaning yule tide table ever since. The great thing about a trifle is that you can pretty much throw in anything you want - although I'd stay away from using meat of any kind. Or vegetables. Easy on the curry powder too. Best to stick with the more traditional ingredients and you'll have a winner every year.

So I don't miss Christmas in England anymore. I can live without the weather. I can live without the turkey on the table. I can live without Queen Liz moaning about her decade horribilis. I can even live without Wham, Slade, Shaking Stevens and Wizzard clogging up the charts and stopping Sir Cliff from being No.1 again.

I'll settle for wearing a t-shirt and shorts, going swimming on Christmas Day and eating a trifle better than anything I'd get in the UK. Thank you Debby.

And best of all, no more Christmas Days like this.........


Milo said...

I like the eccentricity of a British Christmas. Mine have always been quite large family ones and I do enjoy them when I think about it.

The thought of Christmas on my own would fill be with real dread and my heart goes out to all the people that have to do that each year. It has to be the very worst time of year to be on your own.

Having said all that, Christmas abroad with sunshine and something a little different would be fun to try.

Daphne said...

I didn't know that they don't have Christmas crackers in America. I'm genuinely amazed. Is that really true or just one of the things that you say and I believe?
That trifle looks good!

lisa said...

We honestly don't Daphne. :) My fiance thought we'd have some when he came over for Christmas, and I was thinking crackers... like the eating kind. :)

Silverback said...

Milo it is fun to be on a beach at Christmas time - I've never been one to like snow. could you ever doubt what I say on here ?!

Thanks for that, Lisa. I'm so glad that t'other Ian has found his own little cracker in the US.
(I know.....bit of a groaner that one)

ruth said...

I don't like trifle because I don't like cream or custard but what's the green layer in yours?

As for Christmas crackers, I am sure you can provide the obligatory groan jokes without the naff toys (tho many crackers now have 'mottos' in them instead of jokes) but surely paper hats are still a must or does America miss out on those too?

Debby said...

Hmmm interesting how you insinuated you actually made that trifle instead of just giving me the idea for it.

Ruth, the green stuff is lime jell-o or jelly as Ian calls it.

I found the little picture very poignant and upsetting.

There will be a turkey on the table this year. Of course the obligatory trifle also! Oh yes, and a tree and pressies, and and and!!!

rhymeswithplague said...

I wondered about the green in the trifle also. Thanks for clearing up that mystery, Debby.

Ian's right, Daphne. We have firecrackers on Independence Day (July 4) in the whole country, and also on New Year's Eve in the south only. But not on Christmas. The only time we wear funny little paper hats, ruth, is on New Year's Eve and sometimes at birthday parties.

I don't mean to shock you, but we don't have Boxing Day at all. The boxes are called Christmas presents and so we open them, oddly enough, on Christmas. Again, in the south they do things a bit differently, and many people open them on Christmas Eve. But December 26 is just another day here.

Bill said...

Hmmm Christmas in another country. I must say this will be my second christmas in Malaysia. Last year i had the most wonderful christmas ever. Not only is it warm and sunny they put on some of the most fantastic fire works display i have ever seen. The food and entertainment is second to none.

I also would like to recommend Malaysia as a wonderful place to retire. The cost of living here is alot lower than florida ( which i spent 7 years at). Check out a web site called JOY-STAY which is the one i used to get my MM2H visa here.

Anyway enjoy your christmas abroad as i will.

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