Amy Hillier. Christmas in England

Меня зовут Эйми Хиллер, мне двацать два лет, и я англичанка. Я живу на юге Англии с моей семьёй. Я учусь в университете Дарема, а сейчас, я учусь в Томском государственном университете. Я в третьем курсе, и я изучаю русский и испанский язык.

For me, as for many people in England, Christmas is the most joyful celebrations of the year. Christmas, despite its recent lean towards commercialism, still represents a time of giving, a time spent with family and loved ones, and of course, a day of remembrance and reflection.

Christmas, officially, is still a religious festival, but nowadays, less and less people celebrate the 25th December solely in remembrance of God’s greatest sacrifice. In my opinion, with the growth of the great commercialism that surrounds Christmas, the focus on buying as many presents and as much food as possible, the day has become more and more secularised. Nonetheless, whether you celebrate Christmas for religious reasons or not, the day is still one that the whole country eagerly awaits throughout the year.

The preparation for Christmas is almost as exciting and important as the day itself. Starting with the beginning of advent on the 1st December, children and adults alike put up advent calendars or candles, in order to count down until the day itself. Advent calendars are most commonly made of cardboard and plastic, and are covered in the numbers 1-25 (representing the 1st December to the 25th), and under each number is a small chocolate. More traditional advent calendars have pictures instead of chocolates, and some advent calendars are even handmade. Advent calendars also have numbers on them, and each day you must burn a small amount of wax to count off each day.

Advent calendars are not the only form of preparation for Christmas however. There is a lot of decoration involved when it comes to Christmas. Not only do people put up beautifully bauble and tinsel scattered Christmas trees in their living rooms, but some also decorate the front of their houses with bright, colourful Christmas lights. Some house are so spectacularly decorated that they have a special evening during which locals gather to watch the lights being turned on. In towns and cities, you very often see the streets lined with Christmas lights and Christmas trees, and in shops and supermarkets you will often hear Christmas music playing even from as early as December 1st! In my town, there is even a small nativity set up in the middle of the town. You will often also hear carol singers throughout the town and catch sight of mulled wine being sold in supermarkets, and pubs.

Of course decoration is not the last piece of preparation. Even months before Christmas, people in England are shopping for Christmas gifts for the children, partners and loved ones. Once you have bought all of your presents then you must wrap them all up beautifully and hide them away so the recipient cannot find them. Then of course there are Christmas cards to be sent or delivered to all of your friends and family and finally there is the Christmas dinner preparation. People often order their Christmas turkey or joint of meat months in advance, to assure they are able to buy the best, and many also make their Christmas pudding well over a month in advance to make sure it has the best flavour.
The night before Christmas is almost the most exciting time, especially for children. However each family has its own Christmas Eve tradition. In my family, after the hustle and bustle of last minute present wrapping, card writing and house tidying, we all wrap up warm and walk to the Abbey so to attend the Christmas Carole service. For me, it is a wonderful time to do some reflection before the joys of Christmas day, and a perfect opportunity to see your friends, and enjoy singing with many others in a beautiful, special building. In our Abbey, we always have the turning on of the lights of a huge Christmas tree, and there is also a lovely little nativity that you can see. After the carol service, we have dinner together as a family, before laying a little plate with a mince pie, a carrot and a small glass of wine or brandy underneath the fireplace. It is a tradition that we have had since all of us were small, and the mince pie and wine is supposed to be for Father Christmas and the carrot for his reindeer when Father Christmas comes down the chimney to deliver our presents in the middle of the night. The final part to Christmas eve is hanging your Christmas stocking on your door or at the end of your bed before cosying up, all excited and ready for Christmas.

When I was a child, I could barely sleep in past 3am on Christmas morning, since I was just so excited. I immediately fumbled around in the dark, and felt at the end of my bed to see in Father Christmas had come and filled in my stocking. Inevitably, the once empty stocking had magically filled up and it’s hard to describe the excitement I felt. Personally, my Christmas morning tradition was always to go into my siblings rooms and wake them up so they knew it was Christmas and we would all sit in one room and open our stockings together. We would then sit together and wait eagerly for the clock to strike 7am, the time that we were allowed to wake up our parents.

As I previously mentioned, each family has their own traditions, but as for my family, after 7am, we would all head downstairs, and open some more presents which Father Christmas had left behind for us. When we were very small we would rip open the wrapping paper, barely able to control our excitement, however as we got older, we became a lot more controlled. After this, we would have breakfast together, before showering and putting on our special Christmas outfit, normally something smart like a dress.

Christmas dinner, for us, and for many families is the biggest event of the day. Normally, our house is full of children, cousins, uncles, aunties, grandmas and grandpas, so many family members that we normally have to improvise an extra table, in order to fit everyone in. During the morning my mother, grandma, and normally my aunty, slave away cooking and preparing all of the food, and then at about 2pm, they unveil the fruits of their labour. A veritable feast of meat, vegetables, gravy, wine, followed by a rich Christmas pudding which we cover in brandy and set alight before serving. This is all welcomed in by the snap of Christmas crackers and the reading of jokes and wearing of paper crowns.

After we are all truly full, we normally relax for the afternoon. We either go for a walk (this is a very traditional Christmas day activity for many families), or watch some of the special Christmas programmes that are normally on TV. We then swap some more gifts between family members, which we have hidden beneath the Christmas tree.

After such a busy day, we all normally collapse into bed, warm, with full bellies and wonderful memories from the day.