*The following is a guest post.
The best times to take a trip to London are also the most expensive. That’s why although I’ve been living in the US for seven years this is only the second time I’ll be going home for Christmas.
I’m a British mommy living in Maryland and if I’m honest I’m one of those ‘reluctant expats’ who vowed never to become ‘Americanized.’
I was determined not to lose my accent – but my British family and friends say they now hear a distinct twang. I was positive my stylish London fashion sense wouldn’t disappear – but last week I wore a neon cable knit sweater to the grocery store. And I definitely was not going ‘holiday’ crazy like so many of my neighbors.
To really avoid that last one I’m escaping to my family home, where my mom can go overboard instead!
But that’s not the only reason I’m taking the trip. Christmas is definitely the time when I feel homesick the most. It’s not just the emphasis on family time that does it but the little Christmas traditions that are uniquely British.
These include going to see a Pantomime. I loved doing this as a kid and secretly pretended I was being dragged to them against my will as an adult. Panto’s are musical theatre productions usually based on a fairytale, performed in front of family audiences. They’re a great way to get into the festive spirit.
Then there’s pulling crackers before or after your Christmas meal. Crackers are brightly decorated tubes of cardboard that are pulled on either end, with treats, bad jokes and paper hats inside them, and anyone who doesn’t wear the paper hat during the whole meal is officially a Scrooge!
After you’ve stuffed yourself at dinner there’s always an abundance of Christmas TV specials to watch. In particular the popular soap ‘Eastenders’ usually kills of a main character on Christmas day – a big ratings pull. And so is the ‘Queen’s speech’ or ‘Royal Christmas Message’ which has been delivered every afternoon on Christmas day since 1932! For some families it’s a moment that brings everyone together (even if it is in front of the TV) and it’s one of the only times you’ll hear the Queen speak at length about anything.
And much like the day after Thanksgiving over here Brits have a day off after Christmas – known as Boxing Day. It’s really just another excuse to overindulge on food and drink and hit the sales!
Silly but significant traditions that I took for granted when I lived in the UK but this year I’ll be savoring them and what’s even more special, introducing my sons to them for the first time.
Tricia Clarke is a freelance journalist and blogger who has worked for BBC Radio in London and NPR in Washington DC. She is the creator of Britsacrossthepond.com, a unique and engaging website celebrating the British experience in America. Follow her on Twitter @BritsAcrossPond