It’s back. It is. It’s unbelievable isn’t it? As soon as the tree comes down, the wreath’s off the door, the world warms up a bit in the Spring and BOOM, it hits you right in the mush. No, not a new hockey season (what is up with that, by the way?), but Christmas. Or “The Holiday” as it is referred to over here for reasons unknown (or at least badly explained).
We are in deep admiration of the ability of Americans to eat roast turkey twice in (almost) a month, whereas we like to keep it to once a year. It’s by no means a one-size-fits all on the food front. I know ham is popular over here and this year my crazy old Brit housemates are cooking a goose. From the banks of the Charles! I jest.
Unlike the completely knackered reindeer, I really do like Christmas. Back in London over the Thanksgiving weekend, it was awesome to be wandering around, more than a month ahead of the event itself, and there were elves and presents and fat dudes with white beards everywhere. OK, maybe not that bad but the Christmas lights on Oxford Street were up, the ice rinks were sold out, and everyone seemed marginally less annoyed than they usually do, and it warmed my heart.
There is a small confession from that weekend. I let some Brits in on your little secret. Having been here for about three months, I took it on myself to inseminate the UK with this most US of US traditions. That’s right. I cooked the enemy a giant meal. Thanksgiving. Turkey. Potatoes. Roast root vegetables. Cranberries that had bounced during the selection process (National Cranberry-five!). It couldn’t top the meal provided to me by two section mates before I left, though. That included crispy-onion-topped bean casserole and a pineapple soufflé. As a main course. It rocked something awesome.
In this way I wished to spread some serious pre-Christmas love. I vetoed anything pumpkin-based on the grounds that I had been run over by Tommy Doyle’s Pumpkinfest where I was introduced to the concept of pumpkin ale which entailed a difficult next morning.
And it worked! So much cheer! Mainly because it’s pretty much Christmas dinner. We didn’t have any kind of emotional outpouring about what we’re thankful for because we Brits prefer to bottle it all up and then freak out about age 45. So much more dramatic.
This whole experience begged the question that after Thanksgiving, why do you in America need Holiday (The Holiday? Holidays? I dunno)? Christmas is basically all about a vast amount of food, booze, and spending too much time with the family. Thanksgiving fulfills this need, non?
Though as with everything else to do with Christmas, it’s best not to ask questions. From the presence of an ass at the birth of Christ, to the ass in the pub on Christmas Eve, tradition is something welcoming, heartwarming and fun. Who cares if you don’t call him Father Christmas? Who cares if you don’t use crackers at Holiday dinner? Who cares if you don’t set fire to your Holiday pudding then stick a prickly leaf in the top of it and carry it to the dinner table and sing a song about some hungry dudes outside a castle in days of yore? This stuff just doesn’t matter.
What matters is that we get time off to sit and reflect about what the Christmas story means. To be with loved ones, to have a glass of wine or four, to appreciate the generosity of others and enjoy the whoosh of relief you get when you don’t totally screw up the presents you have got for people.
I do have two gripes with U.S. Holiday OK ENOUGH ALREADY Christmas: Firstly, mulled wine – we need more of it in this country. The streets of the UK flow with it at Christmas and it rocks. Secondly, Boxing Day. You don’t have it. That really was a shock.